HONG KONG — After an 18-month investigation, the family of Hong Kong-based British jewelry designer Sandra d’Auriol received some form of closure when the coroner’s office of the Los Angeles Police Department released its report on the cause of her death and said it was not suicide.
On Jan. 22, 2014, d’Auriol, a 53-year-old mother with two surviving children, jumped from the roof of the Beverly Hills building that housed plastic surgeon Brian Novack’s clinic, following a 13-hour cosmetic procedure. Novack, dubbed by some as “surgeon to the stars,” has clients who reportedly include Demi Moore and Courteney Cox.
According to a statement released by her family, the L.A.P.D. Coroner’s report into d’Auriol’s death concluded it was a result of a post-operative neurological disturbance, stating that “the mode of death was due to drug-/anesthesia-related accidental death” and that she was in a state of “post-operation psychosis clinical.”
Speaking on behalf of the family, Guy d’Auriol, the brother of the deceased’s husband, Yan, expressed relief. “This finding vindicates what the family has always believed, that her death was linked to an adverse reaction to surgery, not suicide.”
The actual condition she suffered from, according to medical experts, is called Post-Operative Neurological Disorder, or POND for short. It is also known as “emergence delirium.”
Earlier media reports had stated the cause of death as suicide, and painted a portrait of d’Auriol as depressive and melancholic, speculating that her suicidal tendencies may have arisen from the devastating loss of her son, Teo, in a freak swimming pool accident in Bali 10 years before. However, friends and family have vigorously strived to dispute this. D’Auriol was considered an important figure in Hong Kong society and was much admired for her philanthropic efforts.
Before her death, d’Auriol had been working on a new collection that was shown posthumously in Hong Kong and London. She had been showing regularly at Sin Sin Fine Art gallery, and her exhibitions had always attracted Hong Kong’s A-list — Joyce Ma, Bonnie Gokson, Elaine Marden and Chantal Miller among them — who were drawn to her antique jade and semiprecious pieces.
The L.A.P.D. Coroner’s official report was released shortly after what would have been d’Auriol’s 55th birthday. “The realization didn’t come without the usual pang of pain,” said Guy d’Auriol.
The year since d’Auriol’s death has been “horrid,” admitted Guy in an e-mail to close friends. “Acceptance of the unthinkable is something Sandra was far more adept at than most of us could ever be,” he wrote, yet the year turned out “to still be one of growth and happy moments, thanks to the incredible innate strength of Yan, Lea and Pia.”
Lea and Pia, d’Auriol’s daughters, spearheaded an initiative to create POND Awareness, a Web site dedicated to bringing this disorder to light “in the hope that it may prevent others from a similar tragedy,” they said.
Guy d’Auriol said “it is an initiative we articulated in the first days past Sandra’s accident, when we discovered with horror the underlying condition which led to her death was far from rare, yet virtually unknown.”
He pointed out that the POND Awareness platform was created “not only for patients but also for medical practitioners and researchers to get involved and share their expertise and views on the condition.”
The d’Auriol family has tapped Dr. Eric Lawes, an expert on POND, to develop a POND 10 “tutorial” complete with a checklist of signs to look out for, to benefit and educate patients, their families, caregivers and the medical community on post-operative care. He said “clinicians do not recognize and address post-operative delirium in up to 80 percent of cases.”
Guy d’Auriol told WWD, “Every day we look at visitors browsing our POND Web site and imagine them being a parent, a spouse, a child, a sibling, a patient, a nurse who may soon be in a position to avoid the type of senseless loss we live with daily. As a family we wish we had been in that position to make a difference for Sandra, but POND has given us an opportunity to turn grief into positive action.”