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Colorado plastic surgeon arrested in teen patient’s death after botched surgery

Emmalyn Nguyen died 14 months after her breast augmentation procedure in August 2019, in which she suffered a brain injury due to a problem with anesthesia.

A Colorado plastic surgeon and nurse behind a botched surgery in 2019 that led to the death of teenage patient Emmalyn Nguyen have been charged, officials announced.

Nguyen, then 18, went to Colorado Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery for a breast augmentation on Aug. 1, 2019, but suffered cardiac arrest after being administered anesthesia, the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office said.

Emmalyn Nguyen, 18, fell into a coma that left her in a vegetative state, her family said in a 2019 lawsuit.
Emmalyn Nguyen, 18, fell into a coma that left her in a vegetative state, her family said in a 2019 lawsuit.Courtesy Nguyen family

She fell into a coma after the surgery-gone-wrong, leaving her in a vegetative state, her family claimed in a lawsuit filed in 2019.

She died around 14 months after the procedure in October 2020.

The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday that an arrest warrant for Dr. Geoffrey Kim, 52, was obtained in Nguyen’s death, “after a lengthy criminal investigation.”

He’s been charged with first-degree aggravated assault and criminally negligent homicide.

He turned himself into authorities accompanied by his attorney Wednesday, was booked and after released on bond, the sheriff’s office said.

Rex Meeker, a nurse anesthetist, is also charged with manslaughter and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Dr. Geoffrey Kim.
Dr. Geoffrey Kim, 52, has been charged with first-degree aggravated assault and criminally negligent homicide.Arapahoe County Sheriff

“We opened this criminal case in August 2019. The investigation has taken more than two years to complete and involved dozens of interviews and search warrants. Our hope is that this will be the beginning of bringing justice and a sense of closure to Emmalyn’s family," Travis Stewart, Captain of Investigations with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, said.

David Woodruff, an attorney for the Nguyen family, told NBC affiliate KUSA of Denver, Colorado, “I think the family has mixed feelings about this.”

"Obviously, they are overwhelmingly happy that finally there will be some justice for Emmalyn, but at the same time, this brings up the whole ordeal all over again and it kind of has reawakened the trauma they went through," he continued.

“At the end of the day, I think they’re glad to see this happening, and it’s encouraging that the legal system is pursuing this,” Woodruff said.

Emmalyn Nguyen pictured before the incident.
Emmalyn Nguyen pictured before the incident.Courtesy of Nguyen family

Kim and Meeker allegedly left Nguyen “unobserved” for 15 minutes after putting her under anesthesia during her procedure, which her parents said is contrary to medical best practices, according to the negligence lawsuit filed by Nguyen’s parents in 2019.

During their absence something went wrong with the anesthesia, the lawsuit says, and she was found with her lips and face turned blue, with the discoloration spreading across her body.

Nguyen suffered cardiac arrest twice and had to be resuscitated, the lawsuit stated. Doctors waited five hours to call 911, the suit alleged.

As a result of the incident, Nguyen was left in “in a permanent ‘semi-conscious state’" from her brain injury and required round-the clock care, including a permanent feeding tube, the lawsuit said, before her death.

NBC News has reached out to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s office for comment.