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Medical board allows doctor in Emmalyn Nguyen case to keep practicing after criminal conviction - "They dropped the ball" says critic

Medical board allows doctor in Emmalyn Nguyen case to keep practicing after conviction
Medical board allows doctor in Emmalyn Nguyen case to keep practicing after conviction 03:27

Dr. Geoffrey Kim, a Greenwood Village plastic surgeon convicted in June of attempted reckless manslaughter stemming from the case of Emmalyn Nguyen, can continue to practice medicine according to a new agreement Kim reached this month with the Colorado Medical Board.

The Aug. 21 agreement calls for Kim to inform patients in writing of his conviction, but the board placed no other new restrictions on Kim's practice. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 8.

Sean Olson, a local attorney who represents patients in medical malpractice cases, said of the board's decision, "to allow this guy to  continue practicing independently, it shocks me and it should shock everybody."

Kim's criminal attorney did not respond to an email from CBS News Colorado requesting comment on the board's decision.

In August of 2019, 18-year-old Emmalyn Nguyen went to Dr. Kim for breast augmentation surgery at his office. But after being administered anesthesia, the teen went into cardiac arrest and turned blue. Kim later admitted he did not call 911 for help until about five hours after the woman suffered cardiac arrest. She never regained consciousness and died from medical complications 14 months later.

The medical board suspended Kim from practicing Jan. 9, 2020.  The next month, the board placed Kim on probation for three years with numerous restrictions. On June 14 of this year, a jury in Arapahoe County convicted Kim of attempted reckless manslaughter, a felony, and obstructing telephone service, a misdemeanor.

In a written agreement dated Aug. 21, the medical board said it was aware of the convictions and decided not to suspend Kim's license. Instead the board reached a negotiated agreement with Kim that he will have to provide written disclosure to patients of the June convictions. 

"There have been no final determinations regarding (Dr. Kim's) professional competence or professional conduct," wrote the board.

Olson said he believes the medical board, "dropped the ball. They should have taken his license away. Someone who is capable of making decisions the way Dr. Kim made decisions should not be able to practice medicine in the State of Colorado."

Olson continued with his criticism saying, "its tough to reconcile any of what the board did in this case with the goal of patient safety. In cases like this where you have such an egregious breach of trust the medical board needs to come down harder."

Lee Rasizer, public information officer for the Department of Regulatory Agencies, called the new agreement "an interim action."

He said, "a felony conviction is considered unprofessional conduct" but he said it "is not an automatic disqualifier from practice, rather, the board renders a decision relative to the information received and discipline is determined on a case-by-case basis. The board may still take further action once its investigation is complete," said Rasizer. 

"It is important to note that the case is not closed," said Rasizer.

Kim has had a Colorado medical license since 2005 and records show no disciplinary action prior to the Nguyen case. 

He previously paid the family of Emmalyn Nguyen $1 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.

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