A prominent Colorado plastic surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Kim, 52, and his nurse, Rex Meeker have been charged with criminal charges after a botched surgery in 2019 led to the death of teenage patient Emmalyn Nguyen. Nguyen, 18, went to Colorado Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery for a breast augmentation on Aug. 1, 2019, but suffered cardiac arrest once given anesthesia, according to the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office. As a result of the incident, Nguyen was left “in a permanent ‘semi-conscious state’” from her brain injury and required round-the-clock care, including a permanent feeding tube. Due to this her family claimed in a lawsuit filed in 2019, in which the family received $2 million. Then in October 2020, 14 months after the procedure, the Nguyen family lost their child when she tragically passed away due to the complications.
Why is Colorado Charging the Surgeon?
The Colorado Plastic surgeon and his nurse allegedly left Nguyen “unobserved” for up to 15 minutes after putting her under anesthesia. During their absence something went wrong and Emmalyn Nguyen was found with her lips and face blue, and the discoloration spreading across her body. Nguyen suffered cardiac arrest twice and had to be resuscitated. Doctors then waited five hours to call 911. All of these steps that were taken were negligent and contrary to medical best practices, according to the negligence lawsuit filed by Nguyen’s parents in 2019.
The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office announced that an arrest warrant for the prominent Colorado plastic surgeon was obtained for Nguyen’s death from plastic surgery complications, after “a lengthy criminal investigation.” The Colorado Surgeon has been charged with first-degree aggravated assault and criminally negligent homicide. He turned himself in, was booked and released on a $5,000 bond. The nurse anesthetist that was responsible for anesthetic during the botched plastic surgery that ended up killing Emmalyn Nguyen, has also been charged with manslaughter and a warrant issued for his arrest. He is expected to turn himself in today.
“We opened this criminal case in August 2019. The investigation has taken more than two years to complete and involved dozens of interviews and search warrants,” said Travis Stewart, Captain of Investigations with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, said. “Our hope is that this will be the beginning of bringing justice and a sense of closure to Emmalyn’s family.“
What Does the Victim’s Family say?
Lynn Fam, Nguyen’s mother, released a statement that said, “We’re all still very devastated and grieving over the loss of our beautiful Emmalyn. It’s still so very surreal. This settlement or any amount of money could never replace her. All we really want is for Emmalyn to be with us healthy and happy again.” She went on to say “It’s just crazy how these medical staff could get away with this and none of us still not knowing the truth about what really happened when Emmalyn was in the OR,” Fam said about her daughter. “How could they let that happen to her? Our lives will never be the same again and our hearts will never be at peace. It’s so difficult losing a child under the hands of someone you thought knew what they’re doing.”
David Woodruff, an attorney for the Nguyen family, told KUSA of Denver, Colorado, “I think the family has mixed feelings about this. Obviously, they are overwhelmingly happy that finally there will be some justice for Emmalyn, but at the same time, this brings up the whole ordeal all over again and it kind of has reawakened the trauma they went through,” he continued. At the end of the day, I think they’re glad to see this happening, and it’s encouraging that the legal system is pursuing this,” Woodruff said.
There is a large amount of trust people put in their doctors, especially surgeons and their teams. Emmalyn Nguyen trusted her doctor to know what he was doing and he left her without supervision while she was vulnerable and only had him and his team to protect her. This incident could shine light on other incidents where patients have died on the table or from preventable complications. Should we start seeing doctors being held even more accountable when a patient dies on the table or from complications that were preventable? Do you believe Emmalyn Nguyen’s plastic surgeon and nurse should be charged for her death?
Written by: Erinn Malloy