In the last six years, there have been 12 known instances of brand-new Yorkers dice from plastic surgery actions in the Dominican Republic. Illustration: Franziska Barcyzk/Guardian US
In the last six years, there have been 12 known cases of brand-new Yorkers dying from plastic surgery steps in the Dominican Republic. Illustration: Franziska Barcyzk/Guardian US
New Yorkers flock to the Dominican Republic for cheaper plastic surgery procedures, however not every one of them return home.


Sharilene Cedeño provided to joke through her sister Kendra that she was going to be 23 forever.

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Cedeño, daughter of Dominican immigrants, was obsessed with remaining young – and also by extension, plastic surgery. Coworkers at the Manhattan clinic whereby she was a nurse’s assistant would catch her looking at dramatic before and after picture on surgeons’ social media pages.

One work she saw a friend’s Instagram post after a procedure by surgeon Edgar Contreras, who’s based in the Dominican Republic. That was it. After year of feeling unattractive compared to ladies who had actually “gotten done”, Cedeño to be ready. Her girlfriend Tiffany Concha, native the Bronx, would join her because that her very own procedure. “We’re going to come to be Barbies,” Cedeño told her.

They flew come the Dominican Republic because that liposculpture – a procedure during which overabundance fat eliminated from the stomach or ago is injected into the buttocks.

At 6am ~ above 23 April 2015, the females drove to the Clínica Plástica Contreras (Contreras Plastic clinic), a contemporary office in Arroyo Hondo, a wealthy ar in the country’s capital, Santo Domingo. Cedeño entered the operating room at noon. Hours later, Concha, lined v purple surgical mite under her medical gown, had not heard anything about Cedeño’s surgery.

At around 4pm Dominican time, Kendra answered a WhatsApp video clip call in ~ her residence in Harlem from Concha, whose confront was streaked through tears.

“Are you calling me to say that my sister is dead?” Kendra asked. “You’re no calling me to tell me that.”

But that was specifically what Concha had called to say: Cedeño died of an embolism during her procedure.

She to be 23 years old.


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Cedeño is among 12 known cases of new Yorkers who have died native plastic surgery steps in the Dominican Republic in the last 6 years. More than 700,000 Dominicans live in brand-new York, creating a organic pipeline in between the two places. It operation even an ext smoothly for those search plastic surgical procedure on the Caribbean island, where actions are far cheaper: the average price of liposuction in the united state is $5,500, contrasted to $3,500 in the Dominican Republic.

In 2018, more than 23,000 plastic surgeries to be performed in the Dominican Republic and an ext than 18,000 the those to be on foreigners. However, favor Cedeño, no all who go there to acquire work excellent return home.

In June, Manuel Núñez, a new Yorker that had additionally gone to obtain liposculpture, died under the knife in a Dominican operation room. Follow to Telemundo, the doctor who activate on that was actually a gynecologist. He had a past background of negligence and also was charged because that the deaths of 2 women in 2015 yet the charges were dropped for lack of evidence.

Then in July, Alexandra Medina, a 33-year-old native Yonkers, became the second brand-new Yorker and third American to die within a month in a Dominican plastic surgical procedure clinic as soon as she went because that a ship tuck.

Of the 12 brand-new Yorkers who have died in Dominican plastic surgeries in the last six years, all but one underwent multiple surgeries in ~ once. Every 12 were black or Hispanic.

Dr Myla Bennett, an Atlanta-based plastic surgeon who defines herself as a safe surgical treatment advocate, started to speak out versus botched plastic surgeries overseas on she social media pages a few years earlier after realizing most patients gift hurt and killed were ladies of color or people of lower socioeconomic status.

The Dominican Republic doesn"t adhere come the exact same US regulations on surgeries, which rises the likelihood of heart failureBennett stated the Dominican Republic doesn’t adhere come the very same US regulations concerning how much body fat have the right to be eliminated in one surgery, which rises the likelihood of love failure and other results during procedures.

Despite the threats that come through surgery, she says human being continue to flock to the Dominican Republic, since that’s where they have the right to get severe Coke bottle number for a reduced cost.

“The ladies desire this specific shape – a yes, really exaggerated type with a little waist and large ole’ hips and butt,” Bennett said. “A the majority of the surgeons in the Dominican Republic, that’s what they carry out really well.”

Hector Cabral, who methods at the International facility of advanced Plastic surgical treatment (CIPLA) in downtown Santo Domingo, is well-known for sculpting impossibly voluptuous bodies. Choose Contreras, Cedeño’s doctor, he has actually a big following on society media, a tool which is greatly utilized to advertise their work and recruit brand-new patients.

Contreras and also Cabral are likewise known for the nine merged times they have made headlines ~ patients died on their operation tables.

Contreras’ clinic was shut down 2 days after ~ Cedeño’s death by the nationwide prosecutor’s office, only to reopen 4 months later. In a radio interview with Radio Zol FM in June 2015, Contreras admitted that there were three more accusations made versus him from the family members of three various other patients who had passed away after surgical treatment with him since 1999. He claimed that Dominican authorities declared no clinical malpractices in those deaths. Contreras included that until Cedeño’s death, he had actually performed much more than 20,000 surgeries.

Thirty minutes away from the posh hills that Arroyo Hondo towards the city center, CIPLA to be shut down not as a result of a fatality during surgery, but due come a bacter outbreak in July 2017 in its operation rooms the infected 32 Americans, 3 of them new York City residents.

A research last year by the American society of Plastic Surgeons listed that between 2003 and also 2017 there to be 29 situations of postoperative epidemic in the Dominican Republic, compared to just three in Mexico – the 2nd country with the most cases of plastic surgical treatment tourists.

In May, health and wellness authorities closed CIPLA again after a Dominican native, Altagracia Diaz, died during a breast reduction surgical treatment with Cabral, becoming the fifth woman – 3 of whom room from brand-new York – to die in Cabral’s care due to the fact that 2013. It has actually not reopened. There is one various other known instance this year of a death of a Dominican aboriginal – Julia Arias, who passed away after receiving a procedure in January in Santo Domingo.


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On his Instagram account, i m sorry has an ext than 270,000 followers, Cabral publishes client testimonials and also highly stylized before and after photos. Prefer Contreras and other doctors, he describes his previous clients together his “dolls” or, in this case, “Cabral barbies”.

Thousands of pictures of women show them with the camera focused on their new breasts under tightly extended tops or flaunting their new hips together they bulge the end from under bikini straps. The comments section of each post turns right into a tug-of-war for likes in between those that say his surgeries space dangerous and also those who swear by his work.

But Cabral’s recruitment has actually not constantly been limited to simply social media. In 2011, Cabral pleaded guilty to charges native the brand-new York attorney general’s office the he cure patients in top Manhattan without a state medical license top top at the very least 10 various occasions. According to the lawyer general, Cabral available medical consultations to females in beauty beauty salons in Washington Heights together a recruiting tactic. As part of his punishment, Cabral had actually to pay much more than $23,000 in restitution to ten clients, a $5,000 fine and he to be barred native obtaining a new York clinical license for three years.

Cabral had been suspended indigenous the neighborhood regulatory board due to the fact that 2015, however was tho able to practice, i beg your pardon illustrates the lax rules in the countryIn a crowded press conference in May adhering to Díaz’s death, Cabral showed up unapologetic and stated, monotonously, that she had “an unexpected event” in ~ the beginning of the operation and doctors unsuccessfully tried to revive her in intensive care. In the press conference, one unprompted Cabral claimed he never tried to flee the country.

The Dominican culture of Plastic Reconstructive and also Aesthetic Surgery, the neighborhood regulatory board that oversees the industry, called a regional news terminal that Cabral had actually been suspended native the association since 2015. Cabral was still able come practice due to the fact that he to be registered with the country’s health and wellness ministry, which illustrates the lax rule in the Dominican Republic. (The Guardian called and also sent message to Cabral on several occasions. That did not answer or respond.)

Cabral’s suspension come one year after new Yorker Rachene Hutchinson went into surgery v him and never come out.

In July of 2014, Hutchinson, a mommy of five from long Island that frequented the island through her Dominican partner, traveled to Cabral’s clinic for a “mommy makeover”: a combination of surgeries the usually entails reshaping the breasts and abdomen adhering to pregnancy. She died from a build-up of fluid that compresses the heart. She mother, Diane Shields, post her death certificate come a facebook account which divulges details around her daughter’s death and also warns others around Cabral.


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At the finish of June, Dominican health officials passed new plastic surgical treatment regulations because that the country’s 56 clinics. Many notable is a brand-new resolution that needs cardiovascular and also preanesthetic assessments to it is in done before surgery. In addition, it recommends foreign patients wait 48 hrs after your flight before going right into surgery as result of the wait pressure, and also at least an additional three weeks after the surgical treatment to return on intercontinental flights. A 2015 resolution to adjust the soil rules for surgeon qualification requirements, however this is the an initial time the such specific preventative measures have actually been passed.

The new health code has increased sanctions against any doctor or clinic discovered to it is in guilty of medical malpractice. Clinics that space closed down, favor CIPLA, will have to pass a health ministry-approved improvement plan come reopen.

If potential patients were starting to flourish weary the the number of deaths over the last six years, these brand-new regulations might encourage them come think problems are safer. Or perhaps there was never a sluggish down in the pipeline anyway, also for those directly affected by the industry’s flaws.

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“The pain is constantly there, the will always be there,” Kendra said. “I feel prefer you simply learn how to live with that pain.”

But Kendra underwent surgical treatment in the Dominican Republic it s her this May, also though she had actually once promised herself she would certainly let walk of her long-held desire to get plastic surgical treatment after her sister’s death.

“I guess it’s just something choose insecurities,” Kendra said. “I just want to make myself feel prettier.”