Woman dies after Brazilian butt lift procedure performed by Miami doctor who was not allowed to operate, lawsuit alleges


A Tennessee mother of five died after having a Brazilian butt lift performed by a Miami doctor who was allegedly not allowed to operate on patients, according to a lawsuit the woman’s family filed.

Erica Russell, 33, traveled to Seduction Cosmetic Center’s facility in Coral Gables, Florida, in June 2021 to undergo the cosmetic procedure. During the surgery, her doctor, John Sampson, allegedly punctured her liver, bladder and intestines with a cannula, a tube primarily used for removing fluid from the body, states a lawsuit filed Monday in Miami-Dade County court.

A little over two hours after the surgery began, Russell went into cardiac arrest and died.

The lawsuit says that her cause of death was determined to be pulmonary fat emboli and bleeding due to liposuction and bilateral gluteal augmentation surgery.

Attorneys representing Russell’s family said Sampson was not allowed to perform surgical procedures at the facility and allege that Seduction provided Russell with falsified paperwork stating that the doctor “had plastic and cosmetic privileges” at a local hospital when he did not.

They also accused Seduction of falsely marketing Sampson “as a surgeon performing surgery at its facility.”

Seduction Cosmetic Center Corp. and Sampson, both named as defendants in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday. Seduction’s President and CEO, Gretel Jardon, could not be reached at phone numbers listed for her. Jardon is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

The suit says that in May 2020, Seduction submitted an application to the Florida Department of Health listing Sampson as its “designated physician” and did not list him as a surgeon. Sampson’s responsibilities, according to the suit, were to ensure the facility was complying with all applicable health and safety standards and requirements.

In June 2020, Sampson allegedly provided the state’s health department with a letter “stating specifically” that he “does not perform surgical procedures at the defendant Seduction’s facility” in Coral Gable, the lawsuit says.

“At all times material hereto, defendant Sampson was not approved to perform surgical procedures at Seduction,” the suit says. “Despite that, between April 2021 and June 2021, defendant Sampson performed plastic surgery procedures at defendant Seduction.”

On June 16, 2021, Sampson allegedly performed procedures on seven patients, including Russell. The suit says that his first surgery was at 6:32 a.m. and he began operating on Russell at 8:31 p.m., following a nearly 14-hour shift.

Since September 2022, Sampson has been “permanently restricted from performing gluteal fat grafting procedures” and “serving as the designated physician of an office surgery center” regulated by the health department, according to an order issued by the health department following a discipline case.

Russell’s attorneys said the department’s decision was “a (very) small step in the right direction.”

“We should not accept this type of conduct in our community. Our firm looks forward to moving this case forward and holding these defendants accountable for their actions,” they said in a statement on Facebook.

A Brazilian butt lift, or BBL, is a procedure where a doctor transfers fat from the patient’s stomach, hips, lower back, or thighs to the patient’s butt. It is performed in two steps: the doctor removes fat using liposuction and then injects the fat into the buttock area.

WebMD says that BBLs are generally safer than other procedures to change how a patient’s rear looks but is still risky and can be fatal. In a January report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 93 U.S. citizens died as a result of cosmetic surgery in the Dominican Republic from 2009 to 2022.

The fatal cases examined involved liposuction and 92% involved gluteal fat transfer or BBLs.

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