The surgeon who operated on Kanye West’s mother on November 9 has finally broken his silence about Donda West’s death, and, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, offered several possible explanations for the noted scholar’s premature passing.
While the results of an autopsy on Donda West’s body are still pending, Adams told the Times that nothing went wrong during the November 9 operation — in which he performed a breast reduction, abdominoplasty (commonly referred to as a “tummy tuck”) and liposuction — reiterating his earlier position (see “Donda West’s Doctor Admits Performing Surgery But Denies Any Wrongdoing”).
“When she left this office, there was no problem whatsoever,” Adams told the Times on Monday.
He then speculated about what the autopsy results might indicate. He said it was likely that West succumbed to a heart attack, a pulmonary embolism or an accidental overdose from drugs he’d prescribed her for post-operation pain management. Based on his years of experience as a surgeon, he said that there was a “small list of possibilities” that could have resulted in the death of the former chairwoman of Chicago State University’s English department.
Adams would not comment on the rationale behind his belief that West could have suffered a heart attack, but said he considered the possibility of an overdose because he prescribed Vicodin for West.
West “probably [had] a rough night” after the operation, he said, and had complained of pain the very next morning. Asked whether he thought West may have taken too many of the painkillers, Adams said, “that’s one speculation on my part, yes.” Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, which conducted a preliminary autopsy report on West last week, has not mentioned drugs as a possible link to her death; that office’s initial findings suggested West may have died “as a result of surgery or anesthesia,” and an investigation into her death is said to be ongoing.
While Adams claimed to favor one theory over the others, he would not elaborate before the coroner’s office issues its final report. “I believe I know exactly what happened to her, but I will not comment on it until I see the final report,” he told the Times.
The Times noted that several hours after the interview, Adams called the paper and insisted that he had not been speculating about West’s case in particular, but about a hypothetical patient facing similar issues.
The paper further questioned Adams about the various malpractice suits that have been filed against him, as well as the investigation into his practice by California’s medical board, which was seeking to suspend or revoke his license because of multiple alcohol-related arrests. He has two major malpractice judgments against him totaling nearly $500,000, and he’s since been sued by other patients in other cases. Public records also show that Adams has liens against him, reportedly for unpaid taxes.
“Yes, there have been some malpractice suits,” he admitted. “But 99 percent of them are what we in this business call ‘nuisance suits.’ ” He claimed that many of the suits were the result of patients not being happy with the way a scar healed, or not wanting to spend additional money for additional procedures.
“There’s a level of selfishness that exists, and we as a system are telling people it’s OK to think of yourself as a victim,” he said. “And the real answer is they’re not victims. And there’s nothing going on here that represents malpractice.
“When you look at the suits critically, what you find is those people who sue are those people who couldn’t afford it in the first place,” he continued. “And so they’re trying to recoup their money and they’re looking for anything wrong.”
Adams told the Times he does owe around $100,000 in back taxes, and $50,000 in unpaid civil judgments; a former patient claims she’s still owed more than $200,000 on a judgment issued several years ago. Adams’ malpractice insurance has periodically lapsed, he confessed, due to his failure to pay premiums on time. Adams also admitted he was guilty of drunk driving in a 1994 case; he said he was pulled over and arrested for drunk driving after having drinks with friends.
But the medical board’s investigation centers on two incidents, one dating back to 2003 and another from last year; in 2003, Adams was asked to take a roadside sobriety test after a minor traffic accident, but refused. “That was a mistake,” he said. In 2006, he was arrested again for drunk driving, but claims he had just one beer and a toast with a friend that evening. He told the paper that he eventually checked himself into the Hazelden treatment center, where he was evaluated for alcoholism.
“The conclusion after two days — and $5,000 — was, ‘This guy is not alcohol dependent,’ ” he said. Adams added that he’s negotiating with the medical board over the alcohol issues, “because they don’t let those go.”
Adams said his business has suffered and the next 10 or 12 patients canceled their procedures in the wake of West’s death. Before Donda’s passing, Adams was a high-profile surgeon who had hosted his own plastic surgery show on the Discovery Health channel; that show has since been cancelled. He was also a regular on several high-profile TV talk shows, including “Extra” and “Oprah.”
Adams’ interview with the Times precedes his scheduled appearance Tuesday night (November 20) on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”