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Expert: Excess anesthesia to blame in death

A woman who stopped breathing during breast enlargement surgery and later died was given excessive amounts of anesthesia, an expert testified at a hearing.

Dr. Kurt Dangl, 43, who is not a board-certified anesthesiologist, administered as much as five times the normal amount of the sedative propofol to Julie Rubenzer, who had already been given other sedatives, the expert testified in a hearing before an administrative law judge.

The Florida Department of Health has petitioned for disciplinary action against Dangl, who is accused of committing gross malpractice, failing to keep detailed records and prescribing a dangerous amount of drugs.

Rubenzer, 38, never woke up after the September 2003 surgery in Dangl's office, and died a few months later of pneumonia and brain damage from lack of oxygen.

"She was given a lot of drugs up front," said Dr. Joan Christie, an anesthesiologist who reviewed the case and testified. "When you put the propofol on top of it, that's when the problems occur."

A second expert, Port St. Lucie plastic surgeon Dr. Donato Viggiano, agreed with Christie that there was an "overuse" of anesthesia, particularly propofol.

Dangl's attorney, Sean Ellsworth of Miami Beach, argued that the experts had no idea how much propofol was used because the amount was never documented. He also said Dangl received extensive training in anesthesiology in dental school years ago and knew what he was doing.

Judge Susan Harrell of the state's Division of Administrative Hearings will have 30 days to make a recommendation to the Board of Medicine, which could consider whether to strip Dangl of his license.