Florida medical regulators restrict office surgery

TAMPA, Fla. - State medical regulators Friday ordered a moratorium on doctors doing surgery in their offices under spinal or general anesthesia, citing patient safety concerns after five recent deaths.

A 90-day moratorium imposed by an 8-5 vote of the Florida Board of Medicine will take effect as soon as the paperwork is filed, probably next week.

The board cited the deaths of five women in Florida since March. Four were undergoing cosmetic surgery. Two deaths appeared to be anesthesia related.

''The numbers are alarming and something needs to be done,'' said Georges A. El-Bahri, a Jacksonville doctor and board chairman. ''If we can get meaningful suggestions into this rule and improve on it we might lift the moratorium. If not, we make it permanent.''

During the moratorium, doctors may operate using general anesthesia only at a hospital or ambulatory surgical center.

Dr. Mathis Becker, president of the 16,000-member Florida Medical Association, urged the board not to order a moratorium.

''It's a regulatory agency coming in making broad decisions based on inadequate data,'' Becker said, adding that he would have association attorneys assess the legality of the action.

''I think we will seek an injunction against the board,'' said Dr. Charles Graper, a past president of the Florida Society of Cosmetic Surgeons. ''It's like a pilot saying 'I'm not going to let you fly any more. We had two deaths last week.'''

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