Dr, Younan Nowzaradan is a weight-loss expert, whose rise to stardom was due to the reality-television series “My 600-lb Life.” He has been responsible for some of the most dramatic transformations in the lives of morbidly obese individuals in the United States. With so many successful gastric by-pass and vertical-sleeve gastrectomy surgeries under his belt, he has been quite triumphant for many years in giving 600-pound plus people a chance to live a quality life. His thriving career over the past three decades as a surgeon, and later as a reality-TV celebrity has also led to some malpractice lawsuits filed by some of his former patients.
- 1 A brief background on Dr. Younan Nowzaradan
- 2 How did Dr. Nowzaradan end up in “My 600-lb Life”
- 3 What is “My 600-lb Life” all about?
- 4 Reasons why “My 600-lb Life” star Dr. Nowzaradan was sued?
- 5 Lawsuits filed against Megalomedia
A brief background on Dr. Younan Nowzaradan
Younan Nowzaradan, an Assyrian, was born in Tehran, Iran. Growing up, he never imagined that he would end up as a doctor, much less an American TV star.
In 1970, he graduated with a medical degree from the University of Tehran, and when he saw an opportunity to further his medical education in the US, he grabbed it. A year after graduation, Dr. Nowzaradan went to St. Louis University in Missouri to participate in a Medical Orientation Program. He subsequently completed his surgical internship at St. John Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, and his four-year residency at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.
Before Dr. Younan Nowzaradan became Dr. Now, a revered weight-loss surgeon in the reality TV series “My 600-lb Life,” he was initially a heart surgeon. One of the accomplished cardiac surgeons in Houston, Dr. Denton Cooley, who was known to be the first to perform artificial heart surgery on a living person, encouraged him to do his fellowship at the Texas Heart Institute in 1976. He said yes to Dr. Cooley, and moved to Houston for his Cardiovascular Fellowship.
In his years of practicing medicine in Houston, somewhere along the way he made the transition from being a heart surgeon to a general and vascular surgeon, and went on to become a weight-loss expert. According to his official website, he was the first Houston doctor who proposed, researched, and adopted the advantages of the use of Laparoscopic Surgery for other medical procedures. After being successful in that process, he performed post-by-pass corrective surgery in removing excess skin around the arms, thighs, breasts and abdomen,
How did Dr. Nowzaradan end up in “My 600-lb Life”
Not everyone was aware that if not for Dr. Nowzaradan’s son, he wouldn’t be involved with the reality-TV show, “My 600-lb Life.” His son, Jonathan Nowzaradan, is the CEO of a media company called Megalomedia, Inc. which provides full-service television and film studio production content for US and international audiences.
Megalomedia produced a documentary in 2010 entitled “World’s Heaviest Woman”, about Renee Williams, who was morbidly obese at 840 pounds, who searched for help, which led her to the clinic of Dr. Nowzaradan.
Apparently, he was the only surgeon who was willing to take the risk of helping her, but while the weight-loss surgery was successful, she died from a heart attack two weeks later. Her family was most grateful and touched for the loving care and understanding that the production crew gave Renee, that they gave them the full rights to distribute the series. The Learning Channel or TLC cable network immediately picked up the documentary, and it attracted a mass of viewers. Due to its success, Megalomedia then produced a documentary series called “Last Chance to Live”, and that project evolved to become TLC’s popular reality-TV show, “My 600-lb Life.”
What is “My 600-lb Life” all about?
“My 600-lb Life” is a reality-TV show that documents the lives of morbidly obese people who have sought the help of Dr. Nowzaradan’s weight-loss expertise. The show focused mainly on those people whose body mass index, BMI fell way beyond the obese classification. Generally, a normal individual would have a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9, and those with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 were considered overweight. The show was for those individuals with a BMI of 40 and above, as most of them weighed 600lbs or more. The series debuted on 1 February 2012 on the TLC network, and has now been on air for a decade.
Dr. Nowzaradan to Dr. Now
Over the ten years “My 600-lb Life” has been airing, his patients have fondly called him Dr. Now, because his last name was a bit tricky to pronounce. While it was quite easy to just provide surgery to all patients who sought his help, the doctor had strict requirements on who was admitted to receive treatment through his clinic.
Anyone could get an appointment with him, but during the interview with the good doctor, he would specifically tell his patients to lose some weight on their own, and then qualify for the weight-loss surgery. It was necessary not only to reduce the health risks, but also to see if the patients were serious enough in their desire to lose weight. He would provide them with a diet and exercise regimen to help them achieve that.
Dr. Now’s no-nonsense and tough-love approach
While Dr. Nowzaradan truly believed that the surgery would help the patients tremendously, he also indicated that it wouldn’t be the only thing they had to do to achieve quality of life. The patients needed to continue losing weight by changing their eating habits and lifestyle after the surgery; this was the reason why he wouldn’t take excuses from his patients when they failed to reach the required weight goal prior to the procedure.
He would tell them what he thought happened, and make them accountable for their actions. While he felt sorry for all of them, he said that he couldn’t fix their lives if they weren’t willing to do their part.
No charge for his patient’s participation in the show
Dr. Now was quite serious in his advocacy of helping obese patients reduce their dependency on other people too, and live a normal life. It was for this commitment that he chose not to charge any of his patients who participated in the TV show. He said in an interview, ‘Looking at the moral obligation that we’ve got, you see somebody who has no life who could have a life. We don’t need to be rich.’ He also stressed that while he had to make a living, he didn’t need to do that out of every single patient he accommodated. It was reported that during the earlier seasons of “My 600-lb Life,” each patient who was featured on it was given $1,500 as payment for the appearance fee, and if they had to be located for a while in Houston so they could be closer to Dr. Now, the TV producers gave them an additional $2,500.
Reasons why “My 600-lb Life” star Dr. Nowzaradan was sued?
Despite the many people Dr. Now had helped by providing weight-loss treatment and surgery including through the TV show “My 600-lb Life,” he also had multiple malpractice suits filed against him and the producers of the show. Anyone, even the most accomplished, can make a mistake because they are not robots. Here’s a list of such cases he was involved in.
Tina Sheppard’s wrongful death in 2005
A year after Tina Sheppard passed away in 2004, her mother Colleen Sheppard filed a medical malpractice suit against Dr. Now and the Houston Community Hospital. He had performed gastric by-pass surgery on her to help her lose weight. At that time, Tina was about 520lbs, and after the surgery, she lost about 100lbs. Colleen believed that the doctor as well as the hospital didn’t provide her daughter with enough information about the risks involved.
She also blamed them for not taking care of Tina after the surgery, as she died of complications of blood poisoning and liver failure.
Colleen was not that confident to file a case against the doctor initially, but then when the documentary “World’s Heaviest Woman” was released, she had this renewed vigor that inspired her to actively pursue the malpractice lawsuit. When Dr. Now was asked about the case, he said that he didn’t know that Tina passed away, and had only seen her once after the surgery. Apparently, his staff repeated called her for follow-up sessions, but she didn’t show up for her appointments. It was unfortunate that it happened, but the patient also had to fulfill her responsibilities such as returning to her doctor post-surgery, to ensure her well-being and total recovery. The malpractice suit failed.
Michelle Park, a tube was left inside her
When Michelle Park discovered that a 6.69-inch piece of tubing was left inside her after Dr. Now performed gastric sleeve bypass on her in 2012, she filed a lawsuit against the surgeon and his anesthesiologist.
Michelle claimed in her lawsuit that the tube was only discovered 22 months after the surgery, when it punctured her colon. She said that it not only caused her much physical pain, but also disfigurement, physical impairment, and mental distress. Her medical condition led her to lose her ability to earn money, and left her with huge unpaid medical bills. However, in 2013 the lawsuit was dropped and people wondered about the reason behind it. Sources from Harris County Court said that it could be a result of a private settlement between Michelle and Dr. Now, but there were no official records of that. When Dr. Now was asked about it, he said that the lawsuit was dropped simply because he wasn’t the one responsible for leaving the tube in her body. If mediation was involved, some fans of the show surmised that Michelle was probably highly compensated for the error, because if not, then it would have been reported that she filed a case against the specific doctor who left the tube.
A steel connector and tubing left inside an unnamed patient
In 2017, it was reported that the weight-loss surgeon Dr. Now along with the Houston Obesity Surgery and Best Care Clinic were named defendants in a malpractice lawsuit. An unnamed female patient filed a case against the doctor for allegedly leaving a stainless steel connector and tubing that was almost 30 centimeters long inside her stomach. It happened when Dr. Now performed laparoscopic surgery on her to repair an hiatal hernia, and to remove gastric banding.
It was only discovered when she experienced intense pain in her abdomen a few days after the said surgery. Her sudden trip to the Emergency Room revealed after an ultrasound scan was performed, that there were foreign objects inside her. She consulted two other surgeons as to the best way to remove the foreign objects. The court papers revealed that she was asking for $200,000 for the physical injuries and mental anguish she suffered as a result of the doctor’s medical negligence and carelessness.
Dr. Nowzaradan is devoted to helping his patients lose hundreds of pounds. Follow a new weight loss journey NOW on #My600lbLife.
These surgical errors were called “never events” simply because they should have never happened. Dr. Nowzaradan denied the allegations and the case is still ongoing.
Other allegations against Dr. Now
Not all of the complaints thrown at Dr. Now ended in a malpractice lawsuit. Some of his former patients, including Samantha Mason who was featured in the ninth season of “My 600-lb Life,” made some serious allegations on her social media account. She claimed that the doctor and the TV producers manipulated her. She said, ‘I found my own surgeons, and I’ve never even been in the same state as Dr. Nowzaradan. I was exploited without even the help from the surgeon himself…’ She alleged that Dr. Now wasn’t as hands-on as the TV show portrayed him to be, and that she would someday write an expose about her experience in the series.
Lawsuits filed against Megalomedia
Some former patients of Dr. Nowzaradan filed lawsuits against the TV production company, Megalomedia. While these didn’t directly involve the bariatric surgeon as one of the defendants, his name was always mentioned in the patient’s journey with the show, “My 600-lb Life.” Here are just two examples of the lawsuits against Megalomedia,
James “LB” Bonner committed suicide in 2018
One of the fan favorites in the sixth season of “My 600-lb Life” was James “LB” Bonner, because of his positive personality. The fans were in awe of how he turned his life around by taking all of Dr. Now’s advice seriously. He ended up losing 400 pounds after he was done with the weight-loss program, including the surgery that was performed on him. Viewers thought that he was having the time of his life after losing so much weight, so everyone was shocked when it was reported that he committed suicide in August 2018, at the age of 30.
Years later, his family was the first to file a case against Megalomedia, alleging gross negligence caused his death. Apparently, he was never given proper mental healthcare even when he reached out to one of the production crew, saying he was in a very dark place. Allegedly, he only received a bit of advice such as ‘Fake it till you make it.’ The family said that he wasn’t ready to be filmed, but Megalomedia pressured him to do so, and refused to pay for all his medical bills, which the company had promised to do.
Gina Krasley filed a case alleging fraud, negligence, and distress
During the eighth season of “My 600-lb Life,” one of the patients, Gina Krasley, failed to qualify for weight-loss surgery as she only lost 50 pounds. She was the third individual to file a case against the show, and claimed that she was highly mistreated by the production crew, to achieve high TV ratings.
There was a time when she was forced to eat extra food by the crew, just to make the narrative that she was not compliant with Dr. Now’s orders. She also said that the staff never provided her with proper mental healthcare in preparation for losing weight drastically, and that the crew wasn’t properly trained to recognize the distress of patients. She died in August 2021 at the age of 30, but the cause of death wasn’t revealed to the public.
Not all stories featured in “My 600-lb Life” were about success, but most of them inspired many people to put importance in healthcare. Despite the many malpractice allegations and lawsuits filed against Dr. Nowzaradan, he’s continued to help morbidly obese people take back their independence by encouraging them to lose weight, as he’s provided them with the best possible solution to their problems.