Cosmetic Surgery and Medical Malpractice
Cosmetic surgeries may be some of the most personal surgical procedures. Oftentimes, you are entrusting a team of doctors to help create a physical appearance that can greatly impact the way you feel about yourself. However, when the procedure does not deliver the desired results, patients can be left with long-lasting medical complications and additional medical bills to reverse the operation. Here, the experienced medical malpractice attorneys with Peter Angelos Law provide insight on what constitutes medical malpractice in a cosmetic surgical procedure as well as how to prove medical malpractice.
Cosmetic Surgery, Explained
Cosmetic surgery falls under the umbrella of plastic surgery, which is any form of surgery that involves the reconstruction of one’s skin or flesh. Many types of plastic surgery are required to repair physical damage to a patient or to improve quality of life. However, cosmetic surgery is a form of elective surgery that aims to improve the aesthetics of a person’s appearance. The following are examples of cosmetic surgery procedures:
- Breast augmentation,
- Breast reduction,
- Eyelid surgery,
- Abdominoplasty (commonly referred to as a “tummy tuck”),
- Rhinoplasty (commonly referred to as a “nose job”),
- Face lift, and
- Neck lift.
Regardless of the elective status of these cosmetic procedures, they still come with a level of risk and the potential for a medical malpractice case.
Medical Malpractice Issues in Cosmetic Surgery
It is important to understand what issues constitute medical malpractice in regards to cosmetic surgical procedures. While it may be upsetting to come out of a cosmetic surgery with a look that you are unhappy with, simply not liking the end result does not necessarily constitute medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice issues in cosmetic surgery are most commonly linked to two main issues, a procedural error or an unqualified surgeon.
Procedural Errors in Cosmetic Surgery
A cosmetic surgery that involves a procedural error is more commonly known as a “botched” surgery. A surgery is considered botched if the end result is drastically different from what the patient was told they could expect or what the patient and doctor agreed on, or if the patient now suffers from medical issues that they would not have if they hadn’t undergone surgery. New medical issues could include persistent or excessive drainage from wounds, infections, sepsis, or foreign objects left in the body.
Unqualified Surgeons in Cosmetic Surgery
Unfortunately, many surgeons offering cosmetic procedures are grossly underqualified. Because cosmetic surgery often does not require an immediate payment nor are many of them covered by insurance, they are easy to schedule for a surgeon and result in a large profit margin. This attracts unqualified surgeons looking to make money. It is important that you thoroughly research quality plastic surgeons and ensure that they are certified as well as have experience in the procedure you are interested in.
It is also important that the rest of your medical team is qualified. Most cosmetic procedures require some amount of anesthesia as well as multiple medical professionals in the room during the procedure. Your surgeon should ensure that the entire medical team present during your procedure has the proper levels of training and certifications to safely carry out the procedure. If the operation is long or intense, it should be in a facility that would provide adequate resources should something go wrong.
While making sure your surgeon and his team are certified will not guarantee a successful outcome with no mistakes, it does ensure that you will be operated on by a skilled team of certified medical professionals.
Proving Medical Malpractice in Cosmetic Surgery Cases
Proving medical malpractice in regards to a cosmetic surgical procedure requires proving the same three elements as all other medical malpractice cases. They are
- The existence of a doctor-patient relationship,
- A breach of the medical standard of care in the course of treatment, and
- Harm to the patient resulting from that breach.
The first element is relatively easy to prove and typically not disputed in a medical malpractice case stemming from a surgical error or surgeon incompetence.
However, the second element can be more challenging to prove in a cosmetic surgery medical malpractice case. Due to the highly specialized nature of cosmetic surgery, plaintiffs often need to retain a specialist that can provide further insight into what the standard of care for the procedure in question should be. Once that standard of care is established, the expert witness will need to show precisely how the surgeon breached that standard. This may include what the surgeon failed to notice, failed to do, or any missteps that were taken during the surgery.
It is important that you seek qualified legal counsel for a medical malpractice case regarding cosmetic surgery, as your team will be able to help you with contacting and retaining the right specialist witness for your case.
The final element—harm to the patient resulting from the breach—can be challenging to prove in a cosmetic surgery medical malpractice case. All surgeries come with a level of risk, and often many view that the elective element of cosmetic surgeries allows patients to have more time to consider the procedure. Some juries may feel that, if risk was explicitly stated before surgery and the patient still elected to have the procedure, then the surgeon may not be at fault. Additionally, many jurors may have a level of bias that prevents them from seeing the harm from a botched surgery.
Because of these challenges, it is extremely important to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. They can aid with collecting relevant medical documents, offering expert guidance on the subject matter, and properly representing you in the courtroom to combat any bias.
Consult With the Baltimore Medical Malpractice Attorneys at Peter Angelos Law
Everyone deserves to feel confident in their skin. Sometimes, a cosmetic procedure can be just what it takes to love the body that you’re in. Because cosmetic procedures are so personal, patients place a high level of trust in the surgeon performing the operation. Unfortunately, cosmetic surgery can be botched or performed by an under-qualified surgeon.
If you or someone you love had lasting medical complications after a cosmetic surgery or were left with results much different than discussed during consultation, you may be entitled to file a lawsuit. Fill out the form below to contact our team of medical malpractice attorneys today to discuss your potential case.