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Cosmetic Surgery Centers Face New Regulations After Liposuction Death

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TIMONIUM, Md. (WJZ) — Tough new regulations are about to hit cosmetic surgery centers. They’re aimed at protecting Marylanders after a woman died after getting liposuction.

Adam May has more on the changes.

The changes could force some cosmetic surgery clinics to clean up their act or close down.

Ula Witherspoon went in for a simple liposuction but left a–now shut down–Timonium medspa with a serious infection that claimed her life.

“The worst thing that can happen to anyone,” said Michelle Thompson. “So unexpected.”

Now, one year later, state officials plan a crackdown on cosmetic surgery centers.

“What we’re doing is identifying risky cosmetic procedures and we’re going to require they’re doing in places accredited and inspected,” said Dr Joshua Sharfstein, Maryland Department of Health.

The new regulations–still under development–will affect a growing, loosely-monitored industry. It’s popular because patients pay cash.

“Insurance companies and Medicare have quality standards that they may apply to an ambulatory surgery center or some place where a procedure is done. Those standards don’t come into play when someone is paying out of pocket,” Sharfstein said.

Liposuction won’t be the only procedure affected, but it is one of the most popular. More than a quarter million are safely performed in the U.S. every year.

“I like to wear a two-piece in the summer and I’m much more comfortable doing that,” said one patient.

But the quest for the perfect body doesn’t always end as planned.

“She just didn’t deserve to die like that,” said Witherspoon’s brother.

“It’s important to realize that nothing is perfect. No procedure is risk-free,” Sharfstein said.

It could take up to a year to develop and implement the new regulations.

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