Book Review: “The Who’s Next Club”

Book Review: “The Who’s Next Club”
Author: Donald W. Ayer
Publisher: Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Cr.
Reviewer: Al Rothstein

The book “The Who’s Next Club” documents the cosmetic surgery death of 38-year old Julie Rebenzer and asks the question, “Why aren’t our standards for office surgery higher?”

Author Donald Ayer, Julie’s father, begins the introduction with “She was our 38 year old daughter, a sister, an aunt, an ex-wife, and stepmother…” letting the reader know right away how a death following surgery in a doctor’s office affects an entire family.

Ayer has spent the last eight years keeping a diary that documented everything from what happened to Julie in that Sarasota, Florida doctor’s office on September 25th 2003 to the Michael Jackson death, questioning why Jackson’s doctor was charged with a crime while Julie’s doctor was not.

Ayer’s family was partially inspired by an unsigned postcard they received after Julie’s death saying, “Seek and ye shall find, I know what happened that day, Sept. 25.”

The Ayers were also encouraged to investigate by a hospital nurse as Julie lay in a coma.  The nurse took Julie’s brother into a janitors closet and scribbled the words Propofol and Demorol.

While giving the reader an intricate inside look at the grueling
decisions that his family had to make about Julie’s life and death
situation, Ayer draws parallels to the similar Terry Schiavo case,
which was going on in Florida at the same time, as well as the Jackson case. For example, he details efforts of lawmakers, Florida’s Governor and even the President to intervene in the Schiavo case and the threat to intervene in Julie’s.  Ayer criticizes this, saying that these decisions should be left to loved ones and based on medical evidence.
Also compared were the heart wrenching conflicts between family, ex-husbands and fiancés, and how his family was guided in a positive way by his Elder Law Attorney, Babette Bach.

Ayer has two goals with this book.  One is to get states to tighten
their standards for office surgery.  He tirelessly meets with the news media and anesthesiology societies, particularly with Hector Vila, MD and Joan Christie, MD, of the Florida Society of Anesthesiologists, in his efforts to tighten regulations in that state, where Julie’s surgery occurred.

The other goal is to make doctors criminally liable for cases like
Julie’s.  For example, Julie’s doctor not having a qualified
anesthesiology professional on Julie’s case, and Ayer’s contention that some emergency help was delayed, should indicate criminal offenses.  However Florida prosecutors say they don’t have evidence of criminal behavior.  Ayer asks whether one has to be a wealthy celebrity in order to get real justice.

Ayer concludes his book with recommendations to the public on how to keep from becoming a cosmetic surgery disaster, or as he puts it, to avoid becoming a member of “The Who’s Next Club.”

This book is highly recommended for both physicians and the public to see how a disaster of this magnitude can happen and how to possibly prevent it.  It can also act as an inspiration for lawmakers to raise standards for practicing in a non-hospital environment.

Note: Reviewer Al Rothstein is an independent public relations
consultant and works with the Florida Society of Anesthesiologists.