Three cosmetic surgery deaths in Tijuana raise alarm over illegal clinics – NBC 7 San Diego


In Tijuana, three people have died from cosmetic surgeries in the past month, raising the alarm about illegal clinics in Mexico’s main medical tourism destination, especially for Americans.

President of the College of Plastic, Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgeons of Baja California, Laura Cárdenas Mata, expressed to a news agency its concern about the negative impact this generates in the medical sector of the region, considered one of the main world capitals of medical tourism, with around 2 million visitors a year.

Cárdenas Mata pointed out that around 90% of the patients they treat come from abroad. They even give them special attention, picking them up at the airport and taking them to where they are staying.

“The country where most people are from is the United States, followed by Canada and the United Kingdom,” she said.


The doctor mourned the three deaths that occurred due to cosmetic surgeries, saying two were for surgery and one for a weight control procedure.

Among those who died was María José Chacón, wife of Henry Giovanni Ortiz, Guatemalan Consul of Denver, Colorado. Chacón died on July 5, reportedly undergoing surgery at the private hospital in Jerusalem, located 10 km from the border port of San Ysidro. However, Yolanda Gómez, legal representative of the Jerusalem hospital, assured TELEMUNDO 20 that the operation was not performed in its facilities.

Erwin Areizaga, head of the State Commission for Health Risk Protection, told a news agency that the Jerusalem hospital had been operating without a license for two months, but its operators continued to treat patients illegally.

“Currently he has a permanent suspension that he cannot operate under any circumstances,” said Areizaga, who said the hospital faces a fine of $1.85 million and will be investigated by the Baja California Attorney General’s Office.

The second death occurred on July 20 at the “Mi Doctor” hospital. The person identified as Robert from Tennessee died two days after undergoing weight loss surgery.

Authorities took Robert’s body to the forensics department, but neither they nor the hospital released a statement on the case.

The most recent death is that of Lilian Gastélum Flores, 36, who died on July 27 in the premises of the “Diagnosis Hospital”, a center which operated in secret.

Gastélum Flores was a real estate agent and mother of three children, according to her sister Ana Karen, who accompanied her on the day of the operation, had “complications in the operation of the devices”, and died during liposuction.

On the day of her death, Ana Karen shared with the media that between the moment her sister entered the operating room and the moment the doctor informed her of his death, an hour had passed.

“That means my sister was in there for an hour and I, as a family member, had no updates being inside the office, not having moved for a single minute,” she said.


Cárdenas Mata said that Alexander Leroy Llamas, the doctor who treated Gastélum Flores, was not licensed to be a public surgeon and was in fact a veterinarian.

Mata warned that a census conducted by the college showed that in Tijuana alone there are more than 300 impostor surgeons, also known in Spanish as “charlatans”.

For this reason, the State Commission announced last Tuesday the “Tu Belleza con Certeza” campaign to verify the clinics operating in the state.

So far this year, 78 clinics have been closed.

Baja California Governor Marina del Pilar Ávila has also promised an initiative that she will present to the local Congress to more strictly regulate these clinics and avoid imposters.

This story was originally reported by NBC 7’s sister station, Telemundo 20. To read the article, Click here.


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