PARKVILLE, Md. - She had a light in her eyes that shines through, even in old family pictures. It's part of the exuberant personality Janet Hannan's family says she was known for.
Her husband, Mike Hannan, says, "She loved to dance and didn't mind when the spotlight was on her."
In the winter of 2005, Janet knew she'd soon have a shining moment. Her youngest son was getting married and she wanted to look her best.
She brought up plastic surgery but at five-foot-three and 118 pounds, her family didn't think it was needed. Hannan's son Bryan was skeptical, "Frankly, I didn't take her seriously. I thought she was joking. I said, 'You're crazy mom. You don't need to do something like that.'"
| They said she's not going to be coming home tonight. |
But on February 23, 2005, Janet, a former medical fraud investigator, went forward with a tummy tuck, liposuction and other procedures. Doctor Oscar Ramirez, a board-certified plastic surgeon, handled the procedure.
Medical records show it was a surgery that lasted nearly 10 hours.
Mike Hannan remembers hearing from the surgeon's staff in the evening, "They said she's not going to be coming home tonight.
We're going to keep her and of course at that time I didn't realize, didn't know that wasn't proper procedure."
Those same records show Janet was kept overnight at Esthetique Internationale, Ramirez's clinic in Timonium.
Because of bad weather, she was taken to her home in Perry Hall the next day by ambulance. Mike Hannan says, "I slept on the floor, right next to her. She would get up. She was cognizant. She would talk."
Hannan spent two nights next to the couch where his wife lay sleeping. On the morning of February 26 th, he woke to find his soul mate was gone.
| I was just hoping that maybe it was a bad dream. But it wasn't. |
He says, "I was just hoping that maybe it was a bad dream. But it wasn't."
In fact, this family's nightmare was just beginning. An autopsy listed the cause of Janet's death as cardiac arrhythmia.
Ramirez says her passing, which came three days after surgery, was unrelated. The state did not prove he directly caused the death.
But as the Hannan's pursued their own case, they say they learned shocking information about her surgeon. Mike explains, "We later found out the doctor didn't have any hospital privileges."
State records show Oscar Ramirez lost those privileges after giving up his malpractice insurance in 2003, two years before Janet's surgery.
The Hannan family also discovered that under state and industry guidelines, the kind of outpatient clinic Ramirez was running wasn't supposed to keep patients overnight or to do procedures longer than six hours.
The family also learned Ramirez had lost a patient following a 12-hour surgery just five months before Janet died.
Bryan Hannan says the discoveries were emotional and heartbreaking, "I hope no one has to go through this again like we did. It's devastating, devastating."
The family's devastation was further compounded by legal battles. Court files show the Hannan's sued Ramirez for malpractice in 2006 and eventually settled with him. Months later though the doctor moved to Florida, set up shop at another clinic, then filed for bankruptcy. Ramirez, a plastic surgeon, listed just $66,000 in assets along with a $430,000 debt to the Hannan's.
Mike Hannan still struggles with the pain of losing his wife. He tells ABC2, "You know time passes, you heal a little bit. Things start to become a distant memory.
Then five years later, you get this thing from the Physicians Board."
The Hannan's received a letter saying the Maryland Board of Physicians had revoked Doctor Ramirez's medical license , saying he "failed to meet the standards of quality medical care" by performing lengthy surgeries in a outpatient setting without adequate resources on two patients, Janet and the man who died before her.
|We later found out the doctor didn't have any hospital privileges.|
The board's final decision came six years, four months and 19 days after Janet's death.
Bryan Hannan says he was stunned by the letter and its timing, "It's broken. It's a broken system in my eyes." A broken system that allowed the doctor who operated on Janet to keep working, moving on as the memories of her stay frozen in time.
We wanted to hear more about Dr. Ramirez's side of the story. We found out he's still practicing in Florida, so we went to talk to him face to face.
He says his
revocation is under appeal in Maryland and he is confident he will be reinstated.
Ramirez says the only reason the board took his license was because he did lengthy surgeries in an office-based clinic, not because of the deaths of two patients.
In an on-camera interview Ramirez told us, "The patient died from cardiac arrhythmia three days after her surgery so that was not related to the surgery I performed.
There was no cause/effect between the surgeries I performed on those patients and the deaths of those patients."
Ramirez says he practices with the highest standard of care.