Translation: Doctor, Is This Normal? Part 2

Translation: Doctor, Is This Normal? Part 2


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Translated by Patrick Moseley

Daniel Alarcón:  Thanks for listening to Radio Ambulante. I want to tell you about a new show on NPR, a new way to keep up with the day’s news. It’s called “Up First”. In 10 minutes, give or take, you can get a sense of the important news stories of the day. Those things you really need to know. Seize the day with “Up First”, available Monday through Friday at 6am, on NPR One or any podcast app.

Daniel: Welcome to Radio Ambulante, from NPR. I’m Daniel Alarcón.

Before we get started, for those of you who haven’t heard the first part of the story, I recommending going back and listening before this episode.

And stick around because at the end we’re going to have a conversation with this story’s producers.

Last week on Radio Ambulante…

Hanna: I enter the room and I see her lying there. Well, she didn’t look well…

Rafael Nieto’s Whatsapp: Hello, miss. All your symptoms are fine, you’re going through the normal process with anesthesia.

Hanna: She obviously got worse, she kept getting worse.

Ximena’s Whatsapp: I need you to come! I really don’t feel well. I need to have a solution for this. I need you to come.

Daniel: To review: In the last episode, our reporter Charlotte de Beauvoir was telling us a story about Ximena, a 21 year old young woman who had undergone a procedure to increase the size of her buttocks. She had it done at a spa in a mall in Medellín. That was on a Thursday afternoon and by Saturday night she still felt very bad. The man who performed the procedure, Rafael Nieto, had been in contact with her.

Here, Charlotte continues the story…

Charlotte de Beauvoir: On Sunday morning, Hanna called Nieto and told him that Ximena was worse than before. So Nieto went to their house, picked them up at the door and brought them to the spa. According to Hanna, there was another doctor there. Hanna goes home and leaves Ximena there.

We don’t know what they did to Ximena at the spa that Sunday. A little later, Hanna gets a call from the spa’s receptionist telling her that they are going to take her to a health clinic. She asked her to bring Ximena a change of clothes. She does. She goes to the mall and from there Rafael Nieto brings them to Las Vegas clinic.

According to Hanna they all went in. But while she was talking to the person at the counter, Rafael Nieto just left. He didn’t say goodbye. He left to go on vacation for Holy Week with his family.

In the first part of the story, we had explained that they had gone to a clinic the day after the procedure. But they had asked for money to admit Ximena because her insurance doesn’t cover complications related to cosmetic procedures.

This time they lie and so they admit Ximena and they put her on oxygen immediately. Hanna sees that she’s getting better. There the doctor asks Hanna what had happened. And she does tell her the truth.

Hanna: And all of sudden the doctor even cursed in front of everyone, she said: “Goddammit, don’t you watch the news?”. And we both started crying.

Charlotte: The doctor realizes that Ximena’s case is severe. Hanna’s at a loss with the situation and she tells Ximena:  

Hanna: “Xime, this has gotten serious. You need to tell one of your relatives.” Because she never had let me, she didn’t want me to tell anyone. I told Xime: “I can’t handle this on my own.”

Charlotte: But on top of that, papers had to be signed at the clinic and even more for the transfer to Medellín General Hospital. And someone also had to pay.  They were charging them 2 million pesosabout 700 dollarsjust for being admitted to the hospital.  

Hanna, not knowing what to do, called Nieto. His wife answers and tells her that they’re not in city. Hanna asks them to pay the 2 million pesos and they agree. They transfer the money. And finally, Ximena gives her the contact information of some relatives, since her parents had gone on vacation. The night of that Sunday, Ximena stays in the hospital with an aunt and Hanna goes home.

The doctors insist to the aunt and uncle that her parents need to come soon. That Sunday night, they call Ximena’s parents; they had already made it to the Caribbean coast after a 15 hour car ride.

They told them that Ximena had had a buttock enlargement, which they had no idea about. But they told them half of the truth because they didn’t want to scare them. This is Doris again, Ximena’s mother.  

Doris Cuervo: They just told me that Ximena was having complications and that she was in the hospital waiting for someone to see her. That was all.

Since they said something about a surgery, I thought, she’s having complications, that’s normal, she got an infection. But I never imaged the gravity of the situation.

Charlotte: Ximena’s dad tells Doris that they should go back right away, but she insists that they not, that they stay the night since he had to rest after driving 15 hours. The next day they went back to Medellín. They drove all day Monday until they made it to the hospital Tuesday morning. Meanwhile the rest of the family was finding out what happened.

Teresa Villa: One of my sisters calls me Monday morning.

Charlotte: This is Teresa, one of Ximena’s aunts. She is Doris’ sister.  They called her from the hospital.

Teresa: It’s very serious. It looks like she had a cosmetic surgery. She’s in intensive care. The doctor told the family to come.” So, yes, I was scared, because I said: “Is this for real?”

Charlotte: Teresa arrives at the hospital and there are a lot of people from her family there. They let them in in groups of five.

Teresa: I go in, and she had an attitude of… totally putting up a wall so people wouldn’t ask her anything, so they wouldn’t attack her. She had this naturally defensive attitude.

Charlotte: What Teresa is saying is that she seemed very uncomfortable with all the visits. And here we should mention that Ximena’s family is very Christian. And Ximena didn’t want them to judge her for what she had done and for not telling anyone on top of that.  

But also, because of the lack of oxygen to her brain, she was entering into a kind of delirium. The doctors even had to restrain her. And sedate her.

And there was another change. But this one was physical. Her body started to amass more liquid than normal.

Teresa: So she started to swell and swell and swell. At this point her face was completely disfigured. Her face was really round and part of her face was popping out, rather her eye was about to pop out, she was really swollen.

Charlotte: Teresa is a journalist. In the waiting room she starts doing research on her phone in order to understand what’s happening to her niece. What she found terrified her. Silicon, which is also known by its technical name biopolymer, can be dangerous if injected incorrectly. It attacks the lungs.

Teresa: I started looking and I said: “There’s nothing we can do.”  Because you can’t operate on the lungs. You can’t interfere with the lungs. There’s no lung transplant.

Charlotte: At night that Monday Ximena was intubated. So she couldn’t speak anymore. Her parents drove through the night on Monday and arrived Tuesday morning.

Doris: Ximena was already unconscious. And the doctor says that there’s no chance that Ximena would live. Because her lungs are 98% destroyed.

Charlotte: There the doctor explains what had happened. He tells them:

Doris: They have injected her with biopolymers, and this liquid has gone through her arteries and reached her lungs and plasticized —in other words, it becomes paste— so it has destroyed her lungs.

Charlotte: Remember how, in the first part of the story, Hanna told us that when she had the procedure, they drew two dots on each buttock to mark where they were going to inject her?

Well, what happens is that when someone does this procedure incorrectly, they run the risk of hitting a vein. And since the veins bring blood to the lungs, if you hit a vein and that vein fills with silicone, well that silicone ends up in the lungs. And from there there’s no way for it to get out.

After speaking to the doctors, Ximena’s parents went in to see her. They told them to talk to her because she could hear them.

Doris: But we couldn’t touch her, because of the risk of infections and all that. When I greeted her and told her I was her mom, she tried to open her eyes, and she really tried… and all those machines started vibrating, and she moved one of her feet, up and down. And I started reading the Bible to her, and I calmed her.

Charlotte: There were a lot people outside of Ximena’s room, including Hanna. Teresa, her aunt, the journalist, starts talking to her, and finds out that Hanna had had the same procedure done.

Teresa: So then I started putting things together. I start to feel these tensions in my family and they start to say, “this girl, what?…” I wanted to be conciliatory to this girl, since Hanna wasn’t responsible for the decision my niece made..

Charlotte: While they talk in the hall, Teresa sees that Hanna’s phone won’t stop ringing. It’s Rafael Nieto trying to get a hold of her.

Teresa: Hanna doesn’t want to answer. We were like: “What do we do? He’s going to run away.” Because we also wanted, well, to have justice more quickly and for them to be able to do a raid. So telling him that Ximena was sick would be giving him a little time for them to run away or move out of the place where they did the surgery.

Charlotte: Nieto and his wife kept calling incessantly. So they told Hanna to answer. Nieto is scared, worried. But Hanna doesn’t tell him anything about Ximena’s condition and she gives him Teresa’s number. Nieto calls her. He asks her how Ximena is doing. Teresa tells him:

Teresa: And I said: “Look, I’m not at liberty to give you that kind of information. Just come to hospital, come and take a look, face the family.” I was very frightened too: “What do I say to this guy?”

Charlotte: Teresa hangs up and Nieto never arrives.

The next day, Wednesday, Ximana’s parents and her siblings went back to the hospital early. They spent the whole morning with her. But they hadn’t eaten since they got there so around two in the afternoon they went down to the cafeteria to eat something. And when they got back…

Doris: We were going up the stairs when the doctor told us to come quick. We go up to wash our hands quickly and they tell us: “No, don’t wash your hands. Come in, because Ximena is in her final moments.” That was terrible. I mean, it’s something that, by God, you…as a human being you never think you’re going to experience.

Charlotte: Her immediate family her parents and her siblingshad enough time to say goodbye.

Doris: We held each other by the hand. My husband was shaking, holding onto her little hands. Telling her he loved her, he loved her, he loved her. And… Samuel, Saray and I we held hands and started to sing a song that she really liked.

Charlotte: A few minutes later Ximena stopped breathing.

Daniel: We’ll be back after the break.

Daniel: NPR and the Knight Foundation are working together to better understand listeners like you, who listen to Radio Ambulante and other podcasts. Please help them by filling out a short and anonymous survey at It would be a great help. Thanks.

Daniel: We’re back with Radio Ambulante. Ximena’s death left her family in shock. But one day before she died, her aunt Teresa had already started moving.

Charlotte continues with the story.

Charlotte: In the afternoon on Tuesday, the hospital staff recommended that they file a complaint with the Attorney General. Teresa went and they told her that, on one hand, because it was Holy Week many of the officials there were on vacation and on the other hand…

Teresa: “No, she hasn’t died, so you can’t claim personal damages, because it’s still, well, the matter isn’t settled. It’s not homicide.” And I said: “But she’s in serious condition.” “How serious? How long does she have left before she dies?” And I said: “Well, she doesn’t have lungs.”  “Ah, then lets wait until she dies.”  

Charlotte: At work, Teresa told a coworker what was happening with her niece and what they told her at the Attorney General’s office: that everyone was on vacation. Her friend told her not to worry because she had a contact there. That contact helped her file the official complaint that same Tuesday in the evening. On Wednesday, Ximena dies, and the next day, Holy Thursday, the police raid the spa at the mall.

Teresa: Which in this country is very rare because you have to go through a lot to get them to do a raid. No, that was it, in two days. They could have done it the following week, because here that’s the way things go.

Charlotte: There they found shredded papers in the waste basket, the record for Ximena’s procedure. And hidden in the ceiling they found medical equipment.

On top of being sad, Teresa was indignant. So she decided to call a few media outlets.

Teresa: To tell the world what is going on. In other words, I couldn’t remain silent. It was like: no more women can die like this.

Charlotte: The news of Ximena’s death and the raid came out in several places.

Newscaster 1: The reports we’ve received state that the cosmetic center did not have operating rooms nor specialized teams to perform these kinds of bodily interventions.

Newscaster 2: … biopolymer treatments…

Teresa: What kind of oversight is there for these centers? In other words, what do they do? Why do the stay in operation and why to they continue costing people their lives?

Charlotte: A friend of Teresa’s who works at the hospital recommended that she contact Bernardo Guerra. He is a councilman of Medellín and a physician specializing in public health. And he’s known as “the anti-corruption councilman.” He is a well-known figure in the city. He’s been following cases like Ximena’s for a few years now.

This is Guerra, who saw the first cases…

Bernardo Guerra: The boom of this phenomenon started around 2005, 2006.

Charlotte: Around that time he saw how clandestine clinics started popping up in offices and garages. There, people who did not have the required licenses were operating.

Bernardo: It’s very well organized structure. They weren’t taking the “white route” which is officially identified in the “Health Cluster,” but rather the “black route,” reducing costs and increasing risks.

Charlotte: And to lure in patients they use a facade.

Bernardo: They see you in a consultation room that is very eye-catching, very luxurious, and then they take you to a clinic, which we have dubbed “garage clinics,” which are houses outfitted for minor procedures, not for 8 hour plastic surgeries that we’ve named the “BLB.”

Charlotte: BLA: for “breasts, liposuction, and buttocks.” That is the popular name given in Medellín to the “combo” that they offer in those places. And it’s clearly a business that is making a big profit.  

Bernardo: They inject industrial silicone and cooking oil, well, we’re talking about 800 centimeters, a liter of oil. They go and they buy it at any supermarket for a dollar. And charge two million seven hundred thousand pesos, they charge the girl nearly a thousand dollars –that’s very profitable…

Charlotte: Guerra estimates that between 20 and 30% of all of the cosmetic surgeries in Medellín entail some sort of illegality: fake licenses or inadequate facilities. Or both.

On average, in Medellín, there are about five deaths a year associated with these procedures. But last year, 2016, was particularly lethal: at least nine women died after illegal cosmetic procedures.

As far as women who come out of their surgeries poorly, that is to say who don’t die but end up deformed or with serious wounds etc, there are 50 complaints a year. Not counting the ones who don’t say anything because they’re ashamed.

Alongside the official investigation, Teresa continued doing her own research.

Teresa: I had the clinical history from when she came into the hospital. I had their full names, Rafael’s and the establishment’s name; well in a manner of speaking, because it wasn’t an authorized place to do those kinds of procedures. Rather  it was a hair salon.

Charlotte: Indeed. In legal terms, the Spa Nubia D’Lavalle was registered as a hair salon. And of course, according to Colombian law, you can’t perform invasive procedures like biopolymer injections at a hair salon.

Teresa and Guerra discovered that local authorities already knew that the spa was breaking the law. That same establishment had been shut down four times before Ximena had her procedure done.

Bernardo: They had been shut down temporarily several times. The last time, in November, 2015, she…  

Charlotte: She, being Nubia D’Lavalle, the owner of the hair salon, Rafael Nieto’s mother…      

Bernardo: She goes to the Sectional Directorate and promises that she is going to stop doing those procedures. So, in good faith, the official tells her: “Oh good, you’re going to stop? I authorize you to reopen the location.

Charlotte: The first time they shut it down was in 2014. They did a routine inspection and found several irregularities. But the spa reopened. In that report from 2014, the official from the city’s Sectional Health Directorate that handle the case wrote: “Performing invasive procedures by cosmetological, non-medical, personnel.” In other words, one of the things they found was that Rafael Nieto…   

Bernardo: That the person who takes the money and makes himself out to be a doctor and does the injection is a chef. That for me is, well, outrageous.

Charlotte: You heard that right: a chef. But that’s not all…

Bernardo: No, no one is a doctor: the mother is a hair stylist and his wife is a cosmetologist.    

Charlotte: Teresa and the councilman found Rafael Nieto’s Facebook page. Today it’s closed, but at the time they were able to see the chef’s pictures: selfies in his white kitchen uniform or pictures of dishes he’d prepared.

The complaint that Ximena’s family filed was not the first one made against him. In 2014, another woman from Medellín sued him for injuries she had after the same procedure he performed on Ximena. But there was no justice, Rafael Nieto didn’t even go to jail.

And here we need to explain a few legal details. The Colombian justice system considers crimes like these as involuntary manslaughter, like in car accidents for example. In other words, it’s when someone causes the death of another person in a way that is not premeditated and not intentional. These cases are considered “not very serious,” so they cannot issue a warrant for arrest, much less incarcerate someone, until there is a trial.

Ximena’s case is still under preliminary investigation in the Attorney General’s office. There still hasn’t been a trial. Nieto is free right now. But that’s not all. His family, the D’Lavalles, have already opened another location. Councillor Guerra took us to see it.

Bernardo: We’re going to visit the new location…. Hello Mario… We’re going to Spa Fresh…

Charlotte: We left in the councilman’s car, his chauffeur drove and we were accompanied by his guards on motorcycles. It’s an armored car. Bernardo Guerra is one of the most protected people in Medellín. Due to his fight against local corruption, he receives frequent threats. The chauffeur has his eyes out everywhere, and when we stop at a streetlight he checks who’s on either side. In order to arrive at the D’Lavalle’s new location, we go through el Poblado, where Río Sur is, the mall where Ximena had her procedure. And the whole area is…

Bernardo: Nice, pretty. This area has that. The square meter is more expensive… the offices, the urban development. As you can see, there are new buildings, new construction. There are American brands, casinos. There are also social clubs. And that’s a good draw.

Charlotte: For clients like Hanna and Ximena. And for global tourism, of course. Near el Poblado there a neighborhood called Envigado, a suburb of Medellín.

Bernardo: We’re now entering the neighborhood. So, you realize, it’s a residential neighborhood.

Charlotte: Yes, there are nice houses.

Bernardo: Two story houses at most, where you do don’t see any commercial activity or anything.

Charlotte: Look, here it is.

Bernardo: Here you can it: Spa Fresh. The address is 47-A 22. It says: “No parking.” On the first level all you see is a garage. Surely there is a cosmetologist and the person who caused the girl’s death. And possibly even the second floor has…

Charlotte: The neighbors reported that a new spa was opening in a residential building. This is the new center that D’Lavalle just opened. But this time in new form, under a different name.

Bernardo: It goes from being cosmetic center Nubia D’Lavalle to Spa Fresh.

Charlotte: A typical garage clinic.

Bernardo: A garage clinic is, well, a modified house where the garage is the waiting room and a bedroom is the operating room. It’s in a residential area, it isn’t zoned to be a hospital, but it is where they perform high risk procedures and where they normally should not.

Charlotte: These houses aren’t really hidden. They have signs on the front and sometimes they have posters advertising the treatments they offer. It’s not uncommon to see a “bellringer” outside; someone who watches who comes and quickly gives warning if they see the police or health services come.

The councilman explained how these centers avoid the authorities. They always stay one step ahead because they have learned to migrate. As was the case with the D’Lavalle’s after Ximena’s death.

The councilman asked the chauffeur to go around the block to pass by the front of the house again without having to stop.

Bernardo: You see the front door is closed, there’s no way in. You have to knock to get in. There must also be some sort of code to get in. It’s a very peaceful area that doesn’t raise a lot of suspicion.

Charlotte: And that was the end of the tour. The councilman dropped us off a little further ahead.

And so, dozens of places like these continue doing procedures like the one that killed Ximena. Every day. That’s because the quest for beauty, here in Colombia, is almost a national sport.

Hanna: Let’s just say, here in Medellín, people are very competitive in terms of their physique. They want to make Medellín like a fitness city, so they make demands of people like, “if you want to get more recognition you need to, I don’t know, have work done on your breasts or butt or work out a lot.” I mean, everything is influenced by how you look.

Charlotte: In Hanna’s case, her body is starting to reject the silicone that she was injected with.

Hanna: I feel like…like a sagging, a sagging. I don’t know if my skin is starting to like come loose or something like that, but I feel it sagging, a sagging that I feel like I shouldn’t have, I work out and all that. But I’m worried that with time my butt will start to…I don’t know wear down or start to look bad.

Charlotte: And her skin is starting to change color too, to darken. It’s the body’s inflammatory reaction, it’s trying to get rid of a foreign material: the silicone she was injected with. In the short term, it’s possible that this silicone will migrate inside her body creating even more problems.

But the damage isn’t just physical. People are quick to blame the women who undergo this kind of treatment. They’re treated like they’re stupid and too naive. They talk about them like they’re responsible for their own misfortunes. But they forget that these women were ripped off.

And Hanna carries that burden. She feels like people judge her. And she…well, she judges herself too.

Hanna: I think we could have done something, if we had had more information, if we had sought help, if he had contacted a relative or someone, if we had not been so alone. Not believing… we believed we were alone in the world, so it was just the two of us, we didn’t have to tell anyone, and that’s why this happened to us, because we didn’t even tell a mom or dad, anyone to get informed…

Charlotte: Now Hanna has to deal with the regret of not having done something different in Ximena’s case. And that’s not fair either, is it? Because in the end, she’s a victim too.

Daniel: It’s likely that the prosecutor’s office will bring charges against Rafael Nieto and there will be justice. They could let him go free or give him 2 to 6 years in jail.

Stay after the credits to hear a conversation with the producers Charlotte de Beauvoir and Juan Camilo Chaves about the legal details of this story.

Charlotte de Beuavoir is a journalist and radio producer. Juan Camilo Cháves is a journalist and editor with Cerosetenta. Both are professors at Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá.

This story was edited by Camila Segura, Silvia Viñas and me. Mixing and sound design by Andrés Azpiri. Thanks to Studio Sónica and Quinta Estudio, both in Bogotá. Thanks to CEPER, the Center for Journalism Studies at Universidad de Los Andes, in Bogotá

The rest of the Radio Ambulante team includes Luis Trelles, Else Liliana Ulloa, Barbara Sawhill, Caro Rolando, Melissa Montalvo, Ryan Sweikert, Luis Fernando Vargas and David Trujillo. Maytik Avirama is our editorial intern and Andrea Betanzos is the program coordinator. Carolina Guerrero is our CEO.

Radio Ambulante is produced and mixed on Hindenburg PRO. 

Learn more about Radio Ambulante and this story on our website: Radio Ambulante tells the stories of Latin American I’m Daniel Alarcón. Thanks for listening.

Daniel Alarcón: After hearing this story I was left with a lot of questions, and so we decided to talk with Charlotte and Juan Camilo a little more. And well, I started with the most obvious question. Why do tragedies like Ximena’s keep happening?

Charlotte de Beauvoir: Well, you have to consider that there are a lot of factors, one which we already mentioned is the classification of these crimes, which in fact are called and it’s absurd, in Colombia, in Spanish, they’re called “culpable crimes.” You would think that they are done voluntarily, but they’re not, it’s the exact opposite: a “culpable crime” is a crime someone’s death is caused involuntarily.

So in Ximena’s case, Rafael Nieto is not considered to have had the intention of killing Ximena. And so, in these cases, since “culpable crimes” are considered less severe than other homicides which are considered willful offenses, in which there is intent to kill, Colombian law says that they can’t be put in jail…

Daniel: Until they have their trial.

Charlotte: Exactly. So what would happen, in this case, is that the whole time the prosecutor’s office conducts the investigation, which can last a year, a year and a half…if they find enough evidence, well, the prosecutor’s office opens a case and then, from that moment until the end of the trial, if he is declared guilty, that is when they decide if he will be put in jail.   

Then you have, for example, in the prosecutor’s office, the prosecutors are up to their necks in work. Like the prosecutor who is handling Ximena’s case, along with Ximena’s, she has 400 cases under investigation.    

Daniel: Are there are also issues of corruption here?

Juan Camilo Chaves: Yes, Daniel, there are a lot of ways corruption comes up in these cases. The first is, for example, is something called the “bellringer,” who are the people standing in front of the garage clinics warning if a police raid comes; and normally they have a personal relationship with the police who give them warnings, but also people from the clinics pay them for these warnings.

And well, there are other levels of corruption. For example: officials from the Health Department receiving bribes to hold up the process; prosecutors or employees in the prosecutor’s office receiving bribes too. These kind of complaints have emerged and the process is delayed until they end up terminating it because of an investigation that goes nowhere.

Daniel: Explain that to me: what does it mean to terminate in this case?

Camilo: Well termination in general is what happens when the time allotted to do the investigation to find evidence and accuse someone runs out.        

Daniel: The case is going very slowly and they can’t do anything anymore…

Charlotte: At this point they have to file away the case.

Camilo: A prosecutor with 400 cases, well, ends up archiving a lot of cases.   

Daniel: And Charlotte, what about the national level?

Charlotte: Yes at the national level there is also a lot of corruption. For example, a big scandal came out here in Bogotá when it was brought to light that an official at the Ministry of Education was receiving money in exchange for validating express licenses that were received abroad.

Daniel: Specifically for fake surgeons?

Charlotte: Exactly. When a person graduates here, they graduate as a general physician or a surgeon. But in order to operate, to perform aesthetic surgeries, on top of your fist diploma, you need to do a specialization in Colombia which takes between five and six years to complete.

But there are doctors who would go who still go to Argentina or Brazil for a couple weekends and take a few online classes… and that official who was caught at the Ministry of Education, she was saying these express courses were worth as much as… as the long-term specialization you are supposed to do. And this is illegal.      

Daniel: Has anyone gone to jail for a case like Ximena’s?

Camila: Well, Daniel, in Medellín specifically, since 2006, no. No one has gone to jail for an involuntary homicide. They have for personal injury. But for involuntary homicide, up to now, at the moment, the first doctor will be sentenced in just a few days. But we don’t know what the sentence will be because that information has not been released.  

Charlotte: And many other cases have closed because of settlements between the perpetrator and the victim. And in Ximena’s case, that’s what happened: at the prosecutor’s office they recommended that they negotiate and there was a discussion between Rafael Nieto’s lawyers and the family’s and there, in fact, they were offered 40 million pesos. Which is about 14 thousand dollars. But the family said no.

Daniel: Is anyone trying to do anything, a congress member or someone drafting laws or regulations?

Camila: No one is trying to make regulations concerning involuntary homicide, or creating aggravating circumstances related to plastic surgery or cosmetic procedures. But on the other hand there are a few senators and a partnership between the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and victim organizations, who are trying to pass a law in Congress to regulate the medical practice of aesthetic surgery in Colombia, But the law has already fallen through a few times and, well, they’re not very optimistic moving into this new legislative phase with Congress right now.

Charlotte: The thing is, in Colombia you have to consider the fact that the law is very antiquated in terms of regulating medicine. For example, today, in the absence of regulation in the law, a plastic surgeon can operate on a brain tumor if the patient agrees. That would not be illegal.

Daniel: And in Nieto’s case, the prosecutor’s office is still investigating and what do you think is going to happen?

Charlotte: I think that it’s most likely that he will go to trial.   

Camila: Yes and I also think that this is a typical case that can make it to a real trial: a person who is not qualified, who isn’t even a doctor and that ends with the homicide of a girl, Ximena, who dies in this terrible situation.         

Thanks to Charlotte de Beauvoir and Juan Camilo Chaves. Next week on Radio Ambulante, more stories from Latin America. I’m Daniel Alarcón, thanks for listening.


Charlotte de Beauvoir y Juan Camilo Chaves



Camila Segura, Silvia Viñas, Daniel Alarcón

Andrés Azpiri