22 November 2023
Dr. Geoffrey Kim found guilty of attempted reckless manslaughter and obstructing telephone services after his staff failed to call 911 for hours when a teenager stopped breathing during a breast augmentation procedure.
A Colorado plastic surgeon, Dr. Geoffrey Kim, has been sentenced to just 15 days in jail for his role in the death of a teenager who stopped breathing during a breast augmentation procedure. Despite his staff waiting five hours to call for help, Kim was acquitted of the most serious charge of negligent homicide. The case has raised concerns about patient safety and the accountability of medical professionals.
A Tragic Procedure Gone Wrong
Emmalyn Nguyen, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate, saved up $6,000 for a breast augmentation procedure performed by Dr. Geoffrey Kim on August 1, 2019. However, during the surgery, Nguyen went into cardiac arrest and slipped into a coma. She remained in a vegetative state for 14 months before passing away at the age of 19. The tragedy was compounded by the fact that Kim’s staff failed to call 911 for hours, delaying proper medical care.
Dr. Kim’s Negligence and Legal Consequences
Dr. Geoffrey Kim was found guilty in June of attempted reckless manslaughter and obstructing telephone services. His staff testified that they wanted to call for help when Nguyen’s heart stopped beating, but Kim explicitly prohibited them from doing so. The jury acquitted Kim of the most serious charge of negligent homicide. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail, followed by two years of probation. Additionally, Kim must pay fines of approximately $70,000 and complete 120 hours of community service in a facility for brain injury survivors.
Suspension of Dr. Kim’s Medical License
The Colorado Medical Board suspended Dr. Kim’s license indefinitely on November 17. However, in August, the board allowed him to continue practicing on the condition that he disclosed his conviction to prospective clients. The board did not provide further comment on the suspension.
Testimony and Evidence in Court
Nurses who worked with Dr. Kim testified that they wanted to call for help when Nguyen’s heart stopped during the procedure, but Kim instructed them not to. The prosecution argued that the delay in calling for emergency services was a significant factor in Nguyen’s severe brain damage. The former anesthetist, Rex Meeker, faced charges of criminally negligent homicide and reckless manslaughter but had his charges dismissed. Meeker testified against Kim, stating that he had recommended sending Nguyen to the hospital but was overruled.
Defense Arguments and Settlement
Dr. Kim’s defense team argued that the delay in calling emergency services was not the cause of Nguyen’s injury, as the amount of fentanyl administered by Meeker would have been fatal regardless. They claimed that Meeker administered the massive dose without Kim’s knowledge. Dr. Kim reportedly paid out $1 million to Nguyen’s family in an out-of-court settlement.
Conclusion: The case of Dr. Geoffrey Kim highlights the importance of patient safety and the accountability of medical professionals. While he was found guilty of some charges, the relatively lenient sentence has sparked outrage and raised questions about the justice system’s handling of medical malpractice cases. The tragedy of Emmalyn Nguyen’s death serves as a reminder of the need for stricter regulations and oversight in the field of plastic surgery to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future.