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Teen who wanted breast implants went into cardiac arrest on operating table and died 14 months later. Now, her plastic surgeon has been convicted of attempted manslaughter.
Composite screenshot of KDVR-TV video and Arapahoe County press release

Teen who wanted breast implants went into cardiac arrest on operating table and died 14 months later. Now, her plastic surgeon has been convicted of attempted manslaughter.

A plastic surgeon in Colorado has been convicted of attempted reckless manslaughter after a teenage girl in his care went into cardiac arrest before undergoing a breast augmentation and died 14 months later.

18-year-old Emmalyn Nguyen, a recent high school graduate, seemed to have her whole life ahead of her on August 1, 2019, when, accompanied by her mother, she walked into Colorado Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery near Denver so that she could receive breast implants from plastic surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Kim.

Sadly, the scheduled procedure almost immediately went awry. Before the operation even began, nurse anesthetist Rex Meeker administered anesthesia to Nguyen, who went into cardiac arrest about 15 minutes later and slipped into a coma. The medical team then spent hours trying to revive her on the operating table.

"They leave her on the operating table for five and a half hours and don’t call 911 for five and a half hours while Emmalyn’s mother sits in the waiting room unaware of what’s happening," attorney David Woodruff, who represented Nguyen, later stated.

Though doctors and nurses were eventually successful in resuscitating Nguyen that day, the consequences of the medical episode were catastrophic. She had suffered severe brain damage and had to be placed in a nursing home for 24-hour care. She did recover some function slowly, but she then contracted pneumonia and died in October 2020.

Kim and Meeker were initially both charged in connection to the incident, but the charges against Meeker were dropped after he agreed to give up his license and testify against Kim. On the stand, Meeker and others there that day testified that Kim ignored "multiple requests" to call 911 so that Nguyen could be transported to a hospital better equipped to treat her. Kim insisted that the staff could revive Nguyen "if given some additional time," one nurse claimed. Kim's defense countered by pointing the finger at Meeker, alleging that he had given Nguyen "two to seven times more fentanyl" than he should have, KDVR reported.

After about five hours of deliberation, the jury found Kim guilty of attempted reckless manslaughter, a Class D felony which usually carries a sentence of up to three years in prison. He was also convicted of obstructing telephone services, a misdemeanor, for neglecting to call police for five hours. However, he was acquitted of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. He is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

Unlike Meeker, Kim still has a medical license, though now that he has a felony conviction, the state medical board may consider revoking it. It had already suspended Kim's license briefly in January 2020 in connection to Nguyen's case but allowed him to continue practicing on a probationary basis. At the time, he was permitted to perform only those surgeries involving "general anesthesia and conscious sedation with an anesthesiologist present and on-site," but that three-year probation period has since lapsed. It is unclear whether he still operates under those restrictions.

Both Kim and Meeker have already been ordered to pay Nguyen's family $1 million each as the result of a wrongful death lawsuit.

Kim's biography listed on the website for Colorado Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery claims that he "places great emphasis on patient care and safety" and that he offers "top-notch follow-up care."

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