A plastic surgeon who practised in Beverly Hills, California, is being accused of using human fat liposuctioned from former patients to fuel his car.

According to Forbes.com, Alan Bittner allegedly collected the human fat and turned it into biodiesel for his own SUV and his girlfriend’s car. He is being investigated by California’s public health department.

Numerous food processing companies are considering using waste products such as animal and vegetable fats as fuel: they are a rich source of triglycerides that can be converted to biodiesel. According to Forbes, Bittner wrote on his website that many of his patients asked him to use their fat as fuel. His website is no longer online.

However, although the idea itself may seem to satisfy “green” values, it is against the law in California to use what is essentially human medical waste as fuel for cars.

It appears it is not the patients that object to Bittner using their fat as car fuel; it was when health officials investigated complaints that the doctor allowed his unqualified girlfriend to perform procedures that they discovered evidence to suggest he was breaking the law by allegedly using waste human fat as a source of diesel fuel.

A lawyer who represents the patients who are suing Bittner told Forbes that the procedures performed by the girlfriend and an assistant resulted in too much fat being removed and this left the patients disfigured. Attorney Andrew Besser said lots of patients have made similar complaints to the state authorities.

The news agency reported that the investigations will probably be dropped because Bittner closed his clinic and moved to South America before Christmas.

Biodiesel is a non-petroleum-based diesel fuel comprising methyl or ethyl esters converted from vegetable oil or animal fat (industrially known as tallow), which can be used either on its own or with petroleum-based diesel in unmodified diesel engine vehicles. It is not the same as straight vegetable oil that is used alone or blended in some converted diesel engines.

Click here more information on biodiesel (wikipedia).

Sources: Forbes.com, wikipedia.

Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD