In December it was reported that several people died after responding to ads posted around Southern California for 1-800-GET-THIN, which connects potential patients to several medical centers. The clinics fall into a "regulatory no man's land," and at the time several government agencies said they didn't have the authority to investigate. Now another woman who had Lap-Band surgery at one of the facilities is dead.
The L.A. Times has been covering the practices of brothers Julian and Michael Omidi for some time, and the doctors have unsuccessfully sued the paper on several occasions. Previously it was reported that Julian's medical license was revoked several years ago, and Michael is on three years' probation. Since 2009, five people have died at clinics operated by the Omidis shortly after receiving Lap-Band surgery. A series of wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits have been filed against the brothers and other doctors affiliated with their 1-800-GET-THIN ad campaign.
The latest to die was 55-year-old Paula Rojeski of Ladera Ranch. Her cause of death has yet to be determined, but she passed away on September 8, shortly after receiving surgery at an outpatient facility affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN. Even Allergan, which manufactures Lap-Bands has criticized the clinics for downplaying risks associated with the prodecure. It's intended for those who are severely overweight, but it doesn't seem that Rojeski was a good candidate for the surgery. She was 5 foot 5, and friends believe she weighed about 180 pounds. "I was a supportive friend, but I didn't think she needed it," said her friend, Marni Rader. "I don't understand why it would be worth the risk for 20 or 30 pounds."
A lawyer representing the Omidi brothers issued this statement:
"Any loss of life is tragic and our hearts and prayers go out to the family and loved ones. The surgery center you are discussing is fully accredited by a prestigious organization. It is my understanding that the center is conducting a full investigation of the events that transpired. Any reporting on this matter is premature."
It sounds more like the Times reporters should be commended, and an investigation by the Medical Board of California is long overdue.