Cost of One Life May Not be in Vain

Proposed Bill Aims to have Surgeries Recorded

Julie Ayer RubenzerCourtesy of the Waukesha Freeman: 4/22/2015

WAUKESHA The death of a former Waukesha woman who died following a 2003 cosmetic surgery in Florida may have repercussions nationally if a bill to be introduced today becomes law.

Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, is expected to introduce the “Julie Ayer Rubenzer Law” in Madison today. The bill calls for video cameras installed in any surgical setting to document surgeries in case complications arise.

Sinicki said the bill would allow fines up to $25,000 for facilities that fail to record procedures or offer patients the option of having the surgery recorded. The recordings would fall under federal privacy protection for health care matters.

A press conference is slated for this afternoon in Madison.

“I’ve been talking with people across the state about some of these issues and the importance is there are so many families who feel that they may have had a malpractice case and they have suffered some kind of injury or possibly death as a result of some kind of surgery or physician; this not only gives those families a tool to help prove, but it also gives doctors a tool to help disprove any wrongdoing,” Sinicki said.

“This is a way to start the conversation. … I have seen issues before the Legislature that were really good issues we could not gain traction on until the public got involved. I think once this is introduced and people understand it, John Public out there (will think) this makes sense.”

Rubenzer, 38, died of brain damage from lack of oxygen following a Sept. 25, 2003, breast augmentation surgery in Florida, during which she was given excessive levels of the anesthetic propofol — the same drug administered to Michael Jackson — in combination with other drugs. Her family flew Rubenzer back to Waukesha, where she died Dec. 26, 2003.

The doctor who performed the surgery, Kurt Dangl, had his medical license revoked by the state of Florida in 2005 after an administrative law judge ruled that he administered excessive levels of propofol to Rubenzer, failed to log her medications properly and dispensed drugs that he was not permitted to dispense.

But Rubenzer’s death was ruled accidental and no criminal charges were ever issued. The family has tried unsuccessfully to have her manner of death changed from accidental to homicide.

Rubenzer’s case was chronicled in a book her father, Don Ayer of Waukesha, wrote called “The Who’s Next Club: A Parents’ Diary of a Cosmetic Surgery Disaster.” It has garnered attention around the nation.

“Transparency for everybody”

Her brother Wade Ayer, who has been working via social media with people who claim wrongdoing by doctors, was a key factor in pushing for such a law.

He said he has been told that if the bill became law, it would be the first such law in the nation.

“The Julie Ayer Rubenzer case will go down in U.S. medical history as a landmark case study as to why a ‘black box’ and/or audio or video recording are necessary in a surgery setting,” he said. Ayer added the cost of the recording would be nominal and fall on the patient, who would have the choice of requesting that a procedure be recorded.

Wade, Don and Maureen Ayer all will be on hand in Madison today.

“The bottom line is you want to make sure there is transparency for everybody,” Wade Ayer said. “People don’t realize that having a surgery is a major decision and if something goes wrong you and your family need to know what happened. And it may be the only key piece of evidence you may have to win a settlement.”

 

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