‘Cosmetic Surgeon to the Stars’ No More than a Crook
A surgical makeover by Boutte promises to offer a procedure by a doctor “nationally and internationally known,” a “doctor to the stars!” But, the lives of many of the center’s patients have been turned upside down by corner-cutting and unsafe, sometimes debilitating procedures. Boutte has been hit with at least seven malpractice lawsuits concerning the improper care of its patients with their attorneys alleging that the center routinely uses unqualified staff and misleads patients.
“Dr. Boutte and her staff are more concerned about increasing profits versus a focus on patient safety, which should be of foremost concern,” said Susan Witt, attorney for three of the cases.
Icilma Cornelius is one patient Witt is representing. With her wedding date just two weeks away, the 54-year-old bride-to-be arrived at the Lilburn office of Dr. Windell Boutte to receive Botox and another anti-wrinkle treatment. While there, the staff recommended cosmetic surgery that could give her a flat stomach, which she felt would be great before her big day.
She agreed to the surgical makeover by Boutte, but after eight hours of surgery, Cornelius’ heart stopped, and the center wasn’t equipped to handle it. Staff had to call 911. Paramedics were able to restart her heart, but the ambulance took a while to get there.
Worried about possible infection from open incisions, Boutte and an employee sutured Cornelius’ skin, and then, because the stretcher wouldn’t fit in the elevator, paramedics had to carry it down a flight of stairs. By the time she reached the hospital, Cornelius had suffered permanent brain damage caused by lack of oxygen and is now unable to do almost anything for herself. She never got to walk down the aisle.
A physician reported Boutte to Georgia’s medical licensing board in 2016, but she continues to practice, still promoting herself as “Atlanta’s leading cosmetic surgeon” and the one the stars turn to. Her website says she has “over 100,000 satisfied patients.” Boutte also advertises that she is “board certified in both surgery and dermatology.” This is despite the fact that she is only a board-certified dermatologist, she is not a board-certified plastic surgeon or general surgeon.
And Boutte’s surgery center was not an accredited operating room or licensed surgery center visited by the stars, as the site claims. During Cornelius’ surgery, it didn’t have the monitoring equipment to promptly detect changes in respiration. Depositions also revealed that a “nurse manager” wasn’t a nurse at all, and Boutte’s surgical assistant, who went to medical school in Peru, is not a licensed doctor in the United States, and yet, was doing parts of procedures without Boutte staying in the same room. “It’s absolutely outside the bounds of what he’s allowed to do,” according to Witt.
In depositions, Boutte downplayed her ability to assist in the emergency and claimed Cornelius’ reaction could have been the result of an allergic reaction. “The medical board’s failure to take action in the two and a half years they have known about Ms. Cornelius’ case, among others, amounts to gross negligence,” Witt said.
Boutte’s public medical board profile lists two malpractice settlements, including one for $900,000. She has also been accused of dancing during surgeries and posting clips online.
Witt said the Cornelius case was recently settled for an amount that is confidential, but she said that settlement is not yet listed on Boutte’s board profile. Those who’ve filed lawsuits hope, in general, that regulators take a closer look at how these largely unmonitored clinics are really operating.