WARNING: This article contains graphic descriptions and photos that some may find offensive.
Bergman Oslund Udo Little (BOUL), a Pacific Northwest law firm with a focus on catastrophic injury cases, recently secured a $13 million verdict against Burien-based Dr. Kristine Brecht and Aesthetic Rejuvenation & Spa on behalf of their clients, former patient Nasra Elmi and her husband.
At the time of treatment, Elmi was living in Kent. She currently resides in Federal Way.
As we previously reported, Dr. Brecht’s license was suspended by the Washington Medical Commission. She is alleged to have performed numerous cosmetic surgeries without screening the patient, who was a poor candidate and suffered “devastating” injuries.
In a lawsuit filed July 11, 2022 in the Superior Court of Washington, Elmi accused Dr. Brecht and Aesthetic Rejuvenation & Spa of performing two days of surgery without the necessary training or skills and without disclosing the risks. Of particular concern was Dr. Brecht’s use of what she termed “Cinderella Anesthesia,” a dangerous makeshift alternative to general anesthesia that the doctor created using a combination of prescription drugs, including Oxycodone and Lorazepam, which caused memory loss.
The doctor also used handcuffs and weights to restrain patients during surgery.
Dr. Brecht advertised herself as being trained in plastic surgery and board certified, but has never been eligible for board certification in any surgical specialty and no other physician could vouch for the use of “Cinderella Anesthesia.”
“A lot of people don’t realize that the medical profession is largely self-regulated, which makes it really hard for patients to figure out if their doctors are properly trained and competent until it is too late,” said Ruby Aliment, lead counsel for the plaintiffs and an attorney with BOUL.
The jury awarded the patient $5 million for past damages, and $6 million for future losses. The jury also awarded $2 million to her husband for loss of consortium, and $34,186 for the plaintiffs’ consumer fraud claim, bringing the total to $13,034,186.
$13 Million Med-Mal Verdict
“This verdict sends a clear message to doctors who put ego and greed over patient safety: you will be held accountable for your actions,” said Vanessa Firnhaber Oslund, a partner with BOUL who tried the case with Ms. Aliment. “This case serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of transparency and utmost care in cosmetic surgery to safeguard the best interests of patients.”
The trial team from BOUL was led by attorneys Ruby Aliment and Vanessa Firnhaber Oslund, with trial technician support from Nick Fagan.
Over the course of two days, Dr. Brecht performed a full-tummy tuck, arm-lift, breast-lift, and liposuction in nine different areas. The patient was a poorly-controlled diabetic, but rather than advise her of the risks of skin necrosis – or tissue death – facing diabetics, Dr. Brecht convinced the patient the surgeries would improve her diabetic condition. The doctor also failed to adequately advise the patient she needed to quit smoking cigarettes to ensure proper healing.
When performing the tummy tuck and arm lift, which called for the removal of skin tissue, there was evidence that Dr. Brecht failed to properly evaluate how much skin and tissue she could remove, causing her to cut off too much skin, which made it difficult for her to close the incision. The excessive tension on the closures further worsened the patient’s scarring and wound healing difficulties according to Plaintiffs’ experts. Adding to the patient’s healing difficulties, the doctor failed to timely address surgical site infections or use appropriate post-operative care treatments.
When the patient started to raise concerns about how she was healing and how the surgeries had gone, Dr. Brecht told her the surgeries were executed perfectly and that the patient’s “unique” skin and “innate” healing issues had negated the effects of her good care. Despite these reassurances, the patient’s determination to seek answers led her to take legal action against Dr. Brecht.
Below are photos of the victim’s injuries from the procedures (WARNING: photos are rather explicit):
Q&A About the Victim
Below is a Q&A we conducted with attorney Ruby Aliment of BOUL about the victim:
From August 2020 through February 2021, when she left for competent medical care. This time period included the consultation on Aug. 1, 2020, surgery on Sept. 1 and 8, and then post-op appointments.
Did she have any idea that Dr. Brecht was using questionable medical techniques?
Dr. Brecht told patients that she taught other doctors how to do what she does and that she used state-of-the-art technologies and cutting-edge techniques. The patient felt very lucky to find this doctor, who appeared so qualified and compassionate, whose office was so close by her home. She had also wanted a female doctor because of the sensitive nature of the treatments. She had no idea she needed to question anything until it was too late. Adding to these issues, the Yelp page for Aesthetic Rejuvenation & Spa (now Restylyne in Spokane) was changed to a different name and different location after a series of surgical patients left 1-star reviews, which made it difficult for patients to research Dr. Brecht’s care. The jury unanimously found changing the Yelp page was a deceptive act that was a cause of the patient’s decision to move forward with these surgeries.
Any other thoughts or advice to other patients of Dr. Brecht?
Doctors like Dr. Brecht are practicing all around the state without oversight and every patient of Dr. Brecht’s should know they are not the only ones who fell prey to her. For people considering cosmetic medicine, check the doctor’s background on https://www.certificationmatters.org/find-my-doctor/, look up their schools to see if they have accredited programs, search the doctor’s disciplinary history on the Washington Medical Commission’s page, ask to see their operating rooms, learn who else will assist in surgeries and their qualifications, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when something goes wrong.
Statement from Victim
“People judge you and don’t understand the pain you are going through, and I was worried people would blame me for what happened,” Elmi told The B-Town Blog. “The jury’s verdict was like a big weight being lifted off me, I am so grateful to them and my legal team, and I am relieved that justice has finally been served. Even though Dr. Brecht has no remorse, because of this jury I feel like I can finally close that book and try to move on with my life. I just hope that Dr. Brecht will never get to practice again and that she cannot go out and butcher someone else.”
Download the complaint document here.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We have reached out to Dr. Brecht for comment, but she has not yet responded. If/when she does, we’ll update this article.