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Medicine

US doctor in negligence lawsuit rapped and danced during plastic surgeries, assistant waved piece of human flesh

Gruesome videos show Atlanta doctor Windell Boutte mugging for the camera during operations

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2018, 2:48pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2018, 4:23pm

Icilma Cornelius was weeks away from her wedding in 2016 when she visited a gleaming brick medical office atop a hill in suburban Atlanta, home of the practice of Windell Davis Boutte, a dermatologist who describes herself as a “nationally and internationally known” cosmetic surgeon.

Cornelius, then 54, had gone in to inquire about Botox and other anti-ageing facial fillers, according to court documents. But while there, Boutte and the staff reportedly convinced Cornelius to also return for several cosmetic surgeries before her nuptials: A standard panniculectomy would remove fat and skin from her lower abdomen, and “SmartLipo,” a type of laser liposuction, would remove fat from her upper abdomen, love handles, bra roll, lower back and upper third of her buttocks.

Five medical blunders as bad as the rapping, dancing surgeonFive medical blunders as bad as the rapping, dancing surgeon

Convinced, Cornelius paid in full for the procedures that day, a total of US$11,284.50, and the clinic scheduled her surgeries for less than a week later.

“She just wanted to be perfect for her wedding dress,” her son, Ojay Liburd, would later tell WSB-2 in Atlanta.

On February 18, 2016, Cornelius returned to Boutte’s office for what she expected to be a cosmetic transformation. Something, however, went terribly wrong that day.

Eight hours into her surgery – after anaesthesia was discontinued but before her lower abdomen had been sutured closed – Cornelius went into cardiac arrest. A medical student in the room called 911 to report Cornelius as unconscious and not breathing.

Even after paramedics arrived and stabilised Cornelius, there were delays in transporting her to the hospital. It took Boutte about 30 minutes to close up Cornelius’s abdomen, and then paramedics had to carry Cornelius down the stairs because there was no elevator at Boutte’s clinic big enough to accommodate a stretcher, according to court documents.

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By the time Cornelius arrived at Eastside Medical Center, she was “in severe distress, unresponsive … and unable to breathe without a ventilator,” a complaint filed on her behalf later stated. Cornelius suffered “a severe and debilitating catastrophic brain injury,” and today relies on a feeding tube and round-the-clock care.

The wedding was cancelled.

Cornelius is one of at least seven women who have sued Boutte for negligence, among other allegations, after their cosmetic procedures went awry, as first reported through a joint investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV Atlanta. At least three of the seven lawsuits have settled for undisclosed amounts.

Lawyers for Boutte’s former patients claim the doctor fraudulently advertised herself as being board-certified in “surgery and dermatology,” when she was only certified in the latter, and also misstated the qualifications of staff members who were allowed to participate in surgical procedures.

Boutte, who did not respond to requests for comment for this story, has maintained in court depositions that she did nothing wrong and that the adverse effects her patients suffered after surgery were out of her control. And because, under Georgia law, any physician with a medical license can also practice surgery, Boutte was operating legally then and continues to do so today.

I was put to sleep, and then I woke up some 18 hours later in the hotel bedroom with a McDonald’s sandwich in my hand, one bite out of it
Patient Mitzi McFarland

The cases have pointed a spotlight on Boutte Contour Surgery & Skin in Lilburn, Georgia, which promises on its website to deliver “snatched” waists and “impressive silhouettes, body contouring and skin that glows!” to men and women seeking plastic surgery.

“DOCTOR TO THE STARS!” the site exclaims of Boutte, who is listed as the centre’s medical director. “Dr. Boutté GETS IT! … She is known for her personable bedside manner, honesty, aggressive work ethic, and PROFICIENT ATTENTION TO DETAIL.”

The lawsuits against Boutte have recently gained notoriety in part because of about two dozen videos filmed and posted to the clinic’s YouTube channel, which showed the doctor dancing, rapping and gesturing over her patients’ naked bodies, apparently during their procedures.

In one, Boutte raps along to the O.T. Genasis song Cut It, waving her scalpel to the beat of the song. At some point, she begins making incisions on the patient’s side, slicing into the skin back and forth to the lyrics: “Them bricks is way too hot, you need to cut it. Your price is way too high, you need to cut it.”

In another gruesome video set to the same song, a surgical assistant dances while waving a large piece of excised human flesh.

In a video filmed with the Commodores’s Brick House playing in the background, Boutte dances next to her patient’s bare buttocks and holds up a tube to mimic a trumpet. In several of the videos, including two to Migos’s Bad and Boujee and Beyonce’s Formation (“Okay ladies, now let’s join sexy nation! Dr Boutte is the best at creating!” Boutte sings), the doctor is not wearing surgical gloves or a mask as she improvises lyrics over her patients, who appear to be sedated.

Those videos, which were used to promote Boutte Contour Surgery & Skin, have since been taken down from YouTube. An Instagram page for Boutte’s clinic is no longer publicly visible. The promotional videos reappeared in news reports recently after Chloe Dallaire, a lawyer representing some of Boutte’s former patients, presented them as evidence Boutte was not practising proper infection control when she operated on a woman named Donna Shah.

In that case, Shah agreed to cosmetic surgery thinking she was getting laser liposuction, but later discovered during Boutte’s deposition she had received conventional liposuction, Dallaire said. In addition, they also discovered Boutte’s housekeepers were the ones cleaning the operating room at the clinic, she added.

Shah’s complaint alleges that she reported post-surgery pain to Boutte but was never advised to seek medical attention. Shah wound up visiting a hospital on her own and was hospitalised for 30 days, with “abdominal wall and gluteal cellulitis with abscess; aspiration pneumonia; acute respiratory failure; acute renal failure; severe sepsis due to cellulitis and pneumonia; severe anaemia due to acute blood loss from the liposuction; acute left gastrocnemius vein thrombosis, transient hypotension, leucocytosis, and tachycardia,” the complaint stated.

Shah’s story is similar to that of Mitzi McFarland and Kristine Dolly, sisters who also agreed to undergo “SmartLipo” but later discovered they had received conventional liposuction, said attorney Susan Witt.

In photos published by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, McFarland’s abdomen appears lumpy and disfigured. McFarland told the newspaper Boutte performed a second surgery to fix the results of the first, and assured her she would be able to drive home herself after the procedure because she would not be heavily sedated.

“I was put to sleep, and then I woke up some 18 hours later in the hotel bedroom with a McDonald’s sandwich in my hand, one bite out of it,” McFarland told WSB-2, adding that she believed Boutte forged her signature after taking her to a hotel near the clinic.

Both Witt and Dallaire, who met each other after realising they were representing clients in ongoing cases against Boutte, say they are frustrated that the Georgia Composite Medical Board has not taken disciplinary action against Boutte.

“In 14 years of medical malpractice (law), both on the defence and plaintiffs’ side, I have never seen anything as outrageous and black-and-white as this doctor,” Dallaire said. “From every angle, whether it’s staffing, lack of protocol … every which way you look at this case, it’s malpractice.”

The Georgia Composite Medical Board, which oversees licensing for medical professionals in the state, did not immediately return requests for comment Monday.