Preying upon perhaps one of the biggest male insecurities, a Beverly Hills-based urologist's controversial treatment turned out not only to be too good to be true — but have a very dark side as well.
In an investigation published by ProPublica, James Elist and his enhancement device, known as the "Penuma" (an acronym for "Penis New Man") take center stage in this drama populated by men who, after getting the implant, had grotesque complications that included festering wounds and extreme pain during urination and sex.
Though Elist's literature suggests that implantation of the Penuma, a block-like silicone device implanted through an incision in the shaft of the penis, is "reversible," it seems clear from example after example of extreme complications that it's anything but.
"To fully consent to a procedure, the patient needs someone to tell him everything," Thomas Walsh, a reconstructive urologist who has treated patients with post-Penuma implantation complications, told ProPublica. "He doesn’t need a salesman. The problem here is that you’ve got someone who is inventing and manufacturing and selling the device. That personal investment can create a tremendous conflict of interest."
Walsh removed the implant belonging to a patient whose name ProPublica listed only as "Mick" to protect his identity. After finally rejecting Elist's directive not to seek advice online or from other doctors, Mick, who had lost sensation in his penis, was horrified to learn that there were tons of other deeply unsatisfied customers who had complications even worse than his own.
From broken implants to holes that spew out amber-colored fluid, the stories of Penuma implants gone wrong are enough to turn one's stomach. But prior to this latest investigation, articles singing Elist and his device's praises in GQ and other outlets contributed to making him a standout surgeon in the packed Beverly Hills market.
Perhaps the most depressing part of Mick's story — an aspect in which he was far from alone — is that following the removal of the implant, he found that his penis had actually lost length.
"It’s like he also snipped the possibility of intimacy away from me," a Hollywood executive who had had multiple surgeries with Elist, told ProPublica.
Though the doctor insists that there are more satisfied customers than unhappy ones, the list of issues not only with the implant itself but also with the consent process is harrowing. For instance, men were being given forms to sign after getting shots of narcotics. Foreign-born patients were being given forms to sign in English and after waking up from anesthesia for what they thought was a vein-cleaning procedure, found a strange object had been implanted into their shafts.
The entire debacle is a gross reminder not only of the potential issues with any cosmetic procedure but also of the lengths, pun intended, people in our culture will go to to "improve" or "enhance" their bodies. That men are willing to undergo such surgeries is as much an indictment on society at large as it is on the doctors who capitalize on their insecurities.
More on surgery gone wrong: Expert Warns of Grim Consequences of New Cosmetic Surgery Trend
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