July 11, 2005
San Diego death linked to silicone injection party
By Marty Graham
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A 45-year-old transgender woman who received illegal silicone injections at a party in a private home in San Diego has died after nearly a month on life support, the county medical examiner said on Monday.
Patricio Gonzalez, who police said received silicone injections to her hips, buttocks, cheeks and lips, died on Sunday. Gonzalez and at least nine other people were injected at a so-called "pumping party" on June 19, police said.
"Pumping parties," where people seeking a more feminine appearance have silicone injected into their bodies, have been on the upswing in the last few years, experts say. The silicone used at the parties is often industrial-grade material like floor sealant.
The Food and Drug Administration banned direct injections of silicone in 1992 and the substance has been known to migrate within the body and cause chronic, degenerative illnesses.
Gonzalez and another transgender woman received more silicone than the other party guests and suffered immediate respiratory problems, prompting the Los Angeles-area woman who was administering the silicone to flee, police said.
Police have issued an arrest warrant for Sammia "Angelica" Gonzalez, 39, who was injecting the party guests with silicone, is believed to have fled to Mexico.
The second transgender woman, 30, was also comatose after the party. There was no update on her condition from police on Monday.
Deaths stemming from "pumping parties" are on the rise, with at least five fatalities reported in Florida, Texas and Georgia since 2003.
The illegal silicone injections are in demand because it remains cheaper and easier than plastic surgery, said Dr. Walter Bockting, the coordinator of transgender health services at the University of Minnesota's Center for Human Sexuality.
Transgender women often have humiliating experiences with traditional surgery clinics, and surgeons often require a psychological exam before they will consider treatment, he said.
"The greatest danger is that people don't know what they're getting," Bockting said. "People are very vulnerable because of the self-esteem issues they suffer from and they are willing to risk long-term disaster to feel better."
A.J. Davis, public policy director for the San Diego Gay and Lesbian Community Center, said the center does everything it can to discourage silicone injections.
"We talk to people about the dangers and we provide lots of information for nonsurgical alternatives," she said.