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Elderly surgeon gets three years' probation in death of cosmetic surgery patient

February 15, 2011 |  6:31 pm

Dr. Lawrence Hansen, an Orange County-based surgeon under investigation by the state medical board in connection with a patient’s death, has been placed on three years probation, according to court papers filed by the board last week.

Click to read Medical Board accusation An accusation against Hansen, 85, of Cypress was filed with the Medical Board in July alleging negligence, incompetence, failure to report a patient death, performing surgery in an unaccredited facility and unprofessional conduct.

DOCUMENTS: Read accusation

Maria Garcia, 39, a mother of five from San Fernando, died after Hansen performed a vaginal reconstruction on her at Hills Surgical Institute in Anaheim Hills on March 13, 2008, according to her medical records, which became part of the public record in a lawsuit filed by her family against her surgeons after her death.

The Times wrote about Garcia’s case in a November article that examined lax regulation of surgery centers. Three other doctors affiliated with the center have had to surrender their medical licenses since September 2009, including Dr. Harrell Robinson, who operated on Garcia shortly after Hansen.

Hansen’s lawyer reached a settlement with the attorney general’s office which the state medical board approved Feb. 9, allowing Hansen to keep his license. He was placed on three years probation, during which he is not allowed to perform surgeries. In addition to the prohibition on operating, Hansen must complete both clinical and recordkeeping training, pass a psychiatric evaluation and, if ordered, undergo therapy.

The medical board accusation filed against Hansen, as well Garcia's autopsy, document the events of the day of Garcia's death.

Hansen, 82, arrived an hour before the procedure, his first at the surgical center. He had not performed a vaginoplasty in five years, had never met Garcia and did not record her patient history or perform a physical exam.

After Hansen finished the surgery, he left the room and Robinson arrived to perform liposuction and a butt lift on Garcia, according to her medical records. Garcia's blood pressure dropped and her heart stopped, and paramedics had to be called to take her to Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Anaheim where she died about an hour later, according to the accusation and coroner's notes.

The area behind Garcia's uterus had been punctured by a needle and she was bleeding internally. A coroner's investigator later determined that Garcia's death was caused by “intra abdominal hemorrhage” due to the vaginoplasty and ruled it accidental. Hansen failed to report her death within 15 days as required by law.

The attorney general’s office declined to comment on the case. The senior assistant attorney general in charge of health quality enforcement, Carlos Ramirez, did not return calls Tuesday.

Hansen's lawyer, Richard Carroll, did not return phone calls or e-mails Tuesday.

Carroll previously said Garcia's puncture wound was caused by Robinson, who surrendered his license Sept. 30, 2009. In his deposition for the Garcia family’s lawsuit, Hansen disputed the medical board's accusation that he had failed to examine Garcia or take her medical history, among other allegations against him.

Jin Lew, an attorney representing the Garcias with Los Angeles-based Michels and Watkins, said he was encouraged to see Hansen face discipline.

“The family I’m certain wanted to make sure whoever was responsible for the death of Maria would be held accountable,” Lew said.

But he also noted that placing Hansen on probation, “doesn’t eliminate the danger” of him practicing medicine again.

“It’s just postponing the problem,” Lew said. “In my mind it just raises more concern.”


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-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske