When a new California law named for Kanye West’s late mother went into effect in 2010, requiring patients to undergo a physical examination before any cosmetic procedure, cosmetic surgeons raised issues with it.
Kanye West’s mother Donda West, who was a professor at Chicago State University, died due to complications arising from cosmetic surgery. In 2009, then California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the Donda West Law to help prevent such deaths. The Donda West Law requires a patient to receive an appropriate physical examination and written clearance from a doctor within 30 days before elective cosmetic surgery. California was believed to be the first state to pass such a requirement.
Many cosmetic surgeons said at the time that the law wouldn’t do much for patient safety considering its content was already common practice. What’s more, violating the law is not a crime, hence no charges but state officials and others swore by it.
Donda, who chaired the English department at Chicago State University, died on November 10, 2007, a day after undergoing liposuction and a breast reduction in Los Angeles, California. When the 58-year-old left the operating room after the surgery, she was reportedly in good health but died at home the next day.
“She would still be alive if I had never moved to Los Angeles,” Kanye would say later of his beloved mom’s death in an interview with Q Magazine.
Kanye has been vocal about his close relationship with his mother, praising her in his songs and walking with her on red carpets. Due to his close relationship with his mother, he was deeply affected by her sudden death after cosmetic surgery. The Los Angeles County autopsy report attributed Donda’s death to “coronary artery disease and multiple post-operative factors”.
In a bid to tighten cosmetic surgery laws, Schwarzenegger introduced the Donda West Act but some doctors were not pleased with it. Dr. Michael McGuire, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, told CNN in January 2010 that requiring a physical examination before surgery and collecting personal and family health history is “so fundamental as part of medical training and medical care that to require it by law seems to be moot.”
Per Donda’s autopsy, it is unknown whether she had undergone any specialized tests prior to her surgery. Dr. Jan Adams, the Beverly Hills plastic surgeon who operated on Donda, said she underwent a physical exam and other tests before the procedure. But Donda’s niece Yolanda Anderson, who pushed for the law in California, said her aunt did not undergo any physical examination before surgery.
“If the medical clearance would’ve been done, then it would’ve prevented [her death],” Anderson was quoted by CNN. “On the other hand, you need to have a doctor who cares enough to say, ‘We can’t do this.’ “
Adams later wrote in his book “What I Know and the Press Isn’t Telling: The Truth behind the Death of Donda West” that “Ms. West’s cardiac status had already been evaluated and cleared a few months earlier at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.” The Los Angeles County autopsy report also suggested that.
Even though a violation of the Donda West Law would not constitute a crime, California Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter, who introduced the bill, said in 2010 that the Medical Board of California will punish violators. The Medical Board of California (MBC) is a state government agency which licenses and disciplines physicians, surgeons and certain allied healthcare professionals in California. It said at the time that physicians who do not go according to the standard of care could be reprimanded, suspended or even asked to surrender their license.
In 2009, Adams surrendered his medical license not because of Donda’s death but because of alcohol-related offenses, reports said.
Born in Oklahoma in 1949, Donda graduated in 1971 from Virginia Union University. She received her doctorate in 1980 from Auburn University in Alabama and taught for more than 30 years. Kanye’s dad Ray West (a Black Panther) divorced Donda in 1980 after the two realized that they were not getting along very well. After their divorce, Donda and Kanye moved to Chicago where she raised him.
She was a bit disappointed when Kanye decided to drop out of the college where she worked. Nevertheless, she supported him in his music career. She left her teaching job to act as what the media described as “momager” for her son. Donda was usually seen with Kanye at events. Five months before her death, she wrote a book, “Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Superstar” where she describes the joy she felt after listening to her son’s debut album, The College Dropout.
“I sat in the parking lot and listened to the whole CD. I couldn’t pull off. I wanted to be still and take it all in. I sat there, listening halfway holding back tears – halfway jamming. I had the music turned up real loud. I wanted to open my window and scream to everybody walking by, ‘Hey, this is my kid!’”