Plastic surgeon charged in death of wife who went into cardiac arrest while he worked on her

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — A plastic surgeon in the Florida Panhandle was charged with his wife's death after she suffered a cardiac arrest and died days after he performed after-hours procedures on her in his clinic last year, authorities said.

Benjamin Brown was arrested Monday on a charge of manslaughter by culpable negligence, which is a second-degree felony. He was released from the Santa Rosa County Jail after posting a $50,000 bond.

His defense attorney said Tuesday that Benjamin Brown intended to plead not guilty. An arraignment was scheduled for next month.

“Dr. Brown intends to plead not guilty and vigorously fight the allegations against him in court,” defense attorney Barry Beroset said in a phone call.

Brown's wife, Hillary Brown, went into cardiac arrest in November while her husband was performing procedures on her at his clinic in the Pensacola area, according to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office. She was taken to a hospital and died a week later, the sheriff's office said.

Last month, the Florida Department of Health filed an administrative complaint before the state Board of Medicine, seeking penalties against Brown up to the revocation or suspension of his license. The complaint involved his wife's case and other cases.

Unsupervised by her husband or any other health care practitioner, Hillary Brown prepared her own local anesthesia and filled intravenous bags for the procedures which included arm liposuction, lip injections and an ear adjustment, according to the Department of Health complaint.

She also ingested several pills, including a sedative, pain killer and antibiotic, before falling into a sedated state, though the consumption of those pills wasn't documented, the complaint said.

“The minimum prevailing professional standard of care requires that physicians not permit a patient to prepare medication for use in their own surgery,” the complaint said.

During the procedures, Hillary Brown's feet began twitching and she told her husband that her vision was starting to blur and that she saw “orange.” Benjamin Brown injected more lidocaine, an anesthetic, into her face. The Department of Health said she became unresponsive and had a seizure.

A medical assistant asked Benjamin Brown if they should call 911, and he said “no," according to the complaint. Over the next 10 or 20 minutes, the medical assistant repeated her question about whether they should call for paramedics, and he said, “no” or “wait,” the complaint said.

When Hillary Brown's breathing became shallow and her pulse and blood oxygen levels became low, after about 10 to 20 minutes, Benjamin Brown told his assistants to call 911 and he began performing resuscitation efforts on her, the complaint said.

However, a medical assistant told a sheriff's office investigator that she made the decision to call 911, not Benjamin Brown. Emergency room doctors at the hospital where Hillary Brown was transported later told the investigator that they treated her for lidocaine toxicity, according to a sheriff's office report.

Also last month, the Department of Health issued an emergency order restricting Benjamin Brown's license to performing procedures only at a hospital under the supervision of another physician. His wife had given injections and performed laser treatment on patients even though she wasn't a licensed health care practitioner, the order said.

Addressing the procedures involving his wife last November, the order noted that muscle twitches and blurred vision are early signs of lidocaine toxicity. The order described Benjamin Brown's treatment of his wife as “careless and haphazard.”

“The level of disregard that Dr. Brown paid to patient safety, even when the patient was his wife, indicates that Dr. Brown is unwilling or incapable of providing the appropriate level of care his future patients,” the order said.