Plastic-surgeon-from-hell Peter Normann, on trial in Maricopa County Superior Court in the deaths of three patients, hired an assistant who had never been trained properly, according to testimony in his trial.
Actual certification comes with the completion of a 42-week course run by a medical institution, a course his assistant never took.
On the ninth day of Normann's double-murder trial, Deputy County Attorney Jeannette Gallagher presented a statement Normann gave in July 2007, in which he describes the role of one of his employees, Joey Lopez, his "medical assistant."
"He's a medical assistant to me," Normann says in his statement. "I think there's some interpretation when it comes to certification."
Between 2006 and 2007, three patients died under Normann's watch as a result of liposuction procedures he wasn't licensed to perform and Lopez wasn't certified to assist in.
Lopez monitored patients during Normann's surgeries and helped administer narcotics. He had no formal training, which was no problem for Normann ,who felt the training he'd provided his "assistant" was sufficient.
Normann is charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of 33-year-old Ralph Gonzalez of Scottsdale and 53-year-old Leslie Ray of California.
He also faces one count of manslaughter in the death of 41-year-old Alicia Santizo Blanco of Gilbert.
The families of Gonzalez and Blanco have filed malpractice suits against Normann and Lopez. According to media reports, they are unlikely to see any kind of compensation because Normann doesn't have malpractice insurance.
In July2007 about 10 p.m., 9-1-1 was called when Ray was found unconscious and unresponsive in Normann's recovery room after a liposuction procedure. Normann tried to perform CPR and insert a breathing tube. His intubation caused a tear in the esophagus, allowing dangerous amounts of air to fill her chest cavity.
Ray died later that night because of an adverse reaction to anesthetics.
Earlier that year, Blanco stopped breathing during her liposuction and butt-augmentation surgery -- eventually dying from a fat embolism, according to the medial examiner.
Gonalez's intubation also was done wrong, causing a tear in the esophagus. He reached the hospital with an adverse reaction to anesthetics and a lethal amount of Lidocaine in his body. He died 11 minutes later.
Appealing to poorer, Spanish-speaking Valley residents, Normann advertised his practice as dirt cheap with little recovery time necessary.
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Santizo Blanco's first language was Spanish and often used family members to translate for her.
During a search of Normann's clinic, cops found letters from the Arizona Medical Board revoking Normann's medical license and Internet printouts of how-to guides for liposuction procedures and administering Propofol (another common anesthetic) and other narcotics for conscious sedation.
Normann's trial is set to continue tomorrow. Check back for updates.