Fiancé of American Woman Who Died After Botched Surgery in Mexico Plans Lawsuit

By Zachary Stieber

The fiancé of the American realtor who crossed into Mexico to undergo plastic surgery and suffered severe brain damage from the botched procedure said he plans to sue after his bride-to-be died on Nov. 24.

Enrique Cruz said that he knew his fiancée, Laura Avila, was going to die after suffering the brain damage but it still hit him unexpectedly.

“My next mission is justice for Laura,” he wrote on Facebook. “After paying all the hospital bills and giving some financial support to her humble family, I will tenaciously be pursuing the lawsuit against the criminals that killed her.”

Avila had traveled to the Rino Center in Juarez on Oct. 30 to get a nose job and breast implant replacement because it was cheaper than in the United States.

But the procedures never happened because the injection of anesthesia prior to surgery was done in the wrong place, causing a heart attack that led to brain swelling and, ultimately, death.

“They injected anesthesia in her spine at the clinic and instead of flowing down her body, it went into her brain, which caused severe swelling,” Avila’s sister Angie Avila told WFAA.

Laura Avila with a friend
Laura Avila (R) out enjoying life with her friend Liz Hernandez before the botched surgery in an undated photo. (Laura Loves Out Loud/GoFundMe)

‘Laura Was Mistreated’

The family was forced to pay the full price for a four-day hospital stay before they were able to move Avila to the United States. Doctors at the hospital in El Paso told the family that she wouldn’t recover from the brain damage. She was later moved to a hospice before she died.

The family has raised more than $81,000 through a page on GoFundMe.

In a statement on Nov. 18, the family said Avala’s condition was the result of Mexican doctors being more concerned about profits than health care.

“Laura was mistreated by doctors in Mexico who were more interested in luring American consumers to their country for the income generated from the promise of discounted medical services than in providing proper patient care,” the family said in a statement released by Larry Friedman, the family attorney.

Now the Rino Center has been shut down and besides the planned lawsuit, Cruz wants criminal charges for the doctors involved in the botched procedure.

“We’ve already hired some attorneys—that’s what helped close the place down already,” Cruz told CBS. “We’re after the doctors for negligence and now murder.”

No formal charges or lawsuit has been filed as of yet.

Americans Travel to Mexico for Health Care

Avila’s family has said they want to share her story widely because of how many Americans travel to Mexico for plastic surgery and other procedures, such as dental work.

Dental care can be up to 60 percent cheaper than in the United States and bariatric surgery can be up to 70 percent cheaper, according to the Pacific Standard.

There was a lull in people traveling south after “Obamacare” was implemented but Americans soon discovered the system wouldn’t provide what they were hoping for, according to Deepak Datta. Datta runs the Medical Tourism Corporation, a Dallas-based company that facilitates medical care for about 500 to 600 patients who travel from the United States and Canada to Mexico every year.

“When the Affordable Care Act came, there was a lot of hope, and a lot of people who needed [nonemergent medical care], for example, knee replacements … they decided to hold off. They had a lot of hope ‘Obamacare’ would take care of that,” Datta told the magazine. “But as time proceeded, that hope evaporated. So we had a lull in those types of procedures for a couple of years, and they are back again, going to Mexico for [these treatments].”

The exact number of Americans who travel outside the country for medical care isn’t known. The research paper Medical Tourists: Incoming and Outgoing, published in the American Journal of Medicine in July, estimated that 1.4 million Americans sought health care in foreign countries in 2017 and predicted that number will rise by 25 percent this year. That figure was already nearly double the Americans who traveled for medical care in 2007. Mexico is one of the most popular destinations for so-called medical tourism, ranked No. 4 on the paper’s list behind Costa Rica, India, and Malaysia.

The paper said that some 14 million to 16 million people traveled outside of their countries for medical care in 2017. Each medical visitor spends an average of $3,800 to $6,000 per visit.