CENTENNIAL, Colo. (KDVR) — A plastic surgeon in Greenwood Village will serve 15 days in the Arapahoe County Detention Center and undergo two years of supervised parole for his role in the death of a patient.
Dr. Geoffrey Kim was convicted by a jury in June for attempted reckless manslaughter and obstruction of telephone services.
Kim, under an agreement with the Colorado Medical Board, had been allowed to keep practicing as long as he informed his patients in writing of his criminal convictions. But on Thursday, the board issued a suspension effective 8 a.m. Friday.
Emmalyn Nguyen, 18, had gone to Kim for a breast enhancement procedure in August 2019 when she went into cardiac arrest following an apparent overdose of anesthesia. Kim administered CPR on Nguyen and revived her breathing, but she never regained consciousness.
Prosecutors presented evidence that Kim instructed staff not to call 911 for five hours in the false hope Nguyen would wake up in his operating room. Nguyen would eventually die in October of 2020, after spending 14 months in a coma-like state.
“It was really this doctor’s reaction to those complications and the fact that he did it in a cold and calculated manner, that he was only looking out for his best interests of his practice, that he failed to call 911 and ultimately caused those injuries,” said Gary Dawson, a deputy attorney in the 18th Judicial District.
Nurse anesthetist’s case dismissed for testimony
Dawson originally charged nurse anesthetist Rex Meeker for Nguyen’s death as well, since it was Meeker who administered the anesthesia that led to Nguyen going into cardiac arrest.
Prosecutors later decided that under Colorado law, they didn’t have enough evidence to pursue a criminal case against Meeker and instead dismissed the case in exchange for his testimony against Kim.
“It’s unclear what caused her death, in part because of the delay that happened here. There’s a number of things that could have been done to reverse that anesthesia and reverse the brain swelling that happened. And that’s, again, where the delay comes into play,” Dawson said.
Judge Michelle Jones acknowledged that even if Kim had called 911 immediately and transported Nguyen to a hospital, she might have died anyway, but said his decision not to at least give her that chance was criminal.
Nguyen’s family members declined to speak with the media after the sentencing hearing, but several relatives gave victim impact statements to the judge, detailing how Nguyen’s death had devastated her family.
Surgeon addresses victim’s family in court
Kim spoke to Judge Jones at his sentencing, slowly reading from a letter as he struggled with his composure.
He told Nguyen’s family: “There has not been a single day in the last four years I did not think of her. And pray for her. I am devastated to know of the pain and anguish they go through every day. I am so sorry that this happened. I cannot imagine the pain you go through. As a doctor, father and a human being, I feel your pain and I’m sorry. … I’m sorry to all of you. But I am not a monster.”
Meeker later gave up his nursing license.
Prosecutors had sought the maximum punishment allowed under the law: three years in prison. But Jones ultimately decided Kim was remorseful, had taken responsibility and was unlikely to reoffend in the future.
In addition to his 15-day jail sentence and two years of probation, he will have to pay a $50,000 fine and serve 120 hours of community service, some of which must be spent at a healthcare facility that treats patients with brain injuries.