A New Jersey woman pleaded not guilty Tuesday to causing a man's death with an injection of silicone he hoped would enlarge his penis, a procedure experts cautioned doesn't work.
Kasia Rivera, 35, could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of reckless manslaughter in the death of Justin Street, 22, of Newark.
Street, a father of two, had gone to Rivera on May 5 seeking a penile enlargement procedure, which prosecutors say Rivera advertised in fliers posted at local businesses. Rivera, who performed the procedures in her apartment — allegedly with no medical licence or training — administered a silicone injection to Street's penis, according to prosecutors.
Street died the next day.
His death was ruled a homicide following an investigation and a medical examiner's determination that he died of a silicone embolism. Rivera was indicted by a grand jury last month.
Investigators believe Rivera may have conducted other similar unauthorized procedures out of her East Orange apartment, but prosecutors said a search for witnesses, and a public plea for people to step forward, had not yielded any other clients to date.
Rivera, who remains free on $75,000 US bail, declined to comment through her court-appointed attorney Tuesday.
'It's a tragic, preventable mistake of vanity.' — Dr. Daniel S. Elliott on deceased man's silicone injection
Dr. Daniel S. Elliott, an associate professor of urology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said it was the first case he had heard of involving a silicone injection to the penis, but add he had dealt with similar cases where patients had attempted to enlarge their penises with injections of fat or other substances.
None of it works, Elliott emphasized, adding that there is no medical justification for the procedure.
"If there were a legitimate method for penile lengthening, Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer would have bought it up and made billions and billions of dollars worldwide," Elliott said. "The fact that they don't means it does not exist."
Enhancement procedures performed by unlicensed practitioners or people with no medical training are more commonly seen among women, Elliott said.
Silicone not approved for injections
Liquid silicone is sought on the black market by women seeking to enhance their figures, even though it is not approved for cosmetic injections. Besides liquid silicone, injections of substances including paraffin, petroleum jelly and hydrogel have been illegally used to enlarge women's breasts, hips and buttocks.
In February 2011, a woman from London died after receiving cosmetic injections to enlarge her buttocks at a hotel near Philadelphia International Airport. Philadelphia police said Claudia Aderotimi, 20, died after she and a friend arranged online to receive injections. Aderotimi died after complaining of chest pain and difficulty breathing following the procedure.
Although Elliott emphasized that he wasn't familiar with the details of the New Jersey case, he said someone believing the substances used to enlarge lips or buttocks might have the same effect on the penis would be making a serious mistake. The penis is an extremely vascular organ, Elliott said, and anything injected into it goes directly into the blood stream and can result in a painful death.
"It's a tragic, preventable mistake of vanity," he said.