Recently, I had the honor of being a guest on “Dr. Phil.” The host of the show, Dr. Phil McGraw is probably the world’s most famous mental health professional. He devoted an entire episode to botched plastic surgery.
I had an opportunity to discuss some of the more unusual cases I have encountered as a lawyer that has sues Florida plastic surgeons, hospitals and clinics for over twenty years. Most importantly we discussed how to avoid being a victim of plastic surgery malpractice.
In my opinion as a lawyer who represents patients injured by careless Florida surgeons the single most important factor in surviving plastic surgery is the selection of the doctor and making sure that the surgeon is Board Certified. After the tragic death of Kanye West’s mother, Donda West, there has been a national focus on the risks of plastic surgery. Patients need to understand that not all doctors are alike. The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) certifies that its members are properly certified and trained.
There are many “fake boards” that claim to have the ability to certify doctors. Do not be fooled and do your homework before agreeing to undergo a procedure. Is your Surgeon Certified? Check here.
In order for a surgeon to be certified by the ABPS they must meet the following requirements:
They have earned a degree from an accredited medical school;
They have completed 3 years of general surgery;
They have completed 2-3 years of supervised residency in plastic surgery;
They have had at least 2 years of professional practice; and
They have passed rigorous written and oral exams (only about 70 percent of physicians who take the test pass it).
The ABPS is recognized and overseen by the American Board of Medical Specialties and sets high education and training standards. To find out if your doctor is board certified, check with the American Board of Medical Specialties and click here.
2. Check the surgeon’s record.
Most states have information on their websites that will allow you to obtain details about a potential surgeon. Some states require you to request the information by mail. Pay close attention to any settlements or records of disciplinary action. Also make sure that your surgeon is licensed to practice medicine within the state. Do not assume that simply because the doctor has an office he is in fact licensed.
3. Does the surgeon has hospital privileges?
If they don’t have hospital privileges, that is a red flag. Hospitals have complex privilege and staffing requirements that can provide an extra degree of confidence when selecting your doctor. Do not rely on the surgeon telling you he has privileges. Contact the hospital directly and confirm the status.
4. Interview the Doctor like you would hiring a nanny or baby sitter.
Ask the following:
How many times has the physician performed the procedure?
How long has the physician performed the procedure?
What other procedures does he/she perform?
Who will assist in the procedure? Their qualifications and training?
Are all involved licensed in good standing?
What is involved in the procedure? How is it performed?
Can I see multiple before and after photos of patients on whom you have performed this procedure?
Can you provide me with three to five reference patients on whom you’ve performed this procedure?
What are the exact breakdown of fees for this procedure?
Can I get advance copies of all forms I have to complete and sign prior to procedure?
Are you insured for malpractice?
Will the physician use sedation? If yes, what level of sedation will the physician use?
Who will administer and monitor the sedation?
How long will the procedure last?
How long will the sedation effects last?
How long will it take to recover in the facility before discharge?
Where will the surgery take place?
What are the emergency plans?
To which hospital would you be taken?
Will post-operative medicine be necessary?
Will there be noticeable scarring?
What realistic result can I expect?
Will the physician perform the procedure from the first cut to the last stitch?
What are the risks associated with this procedure?
What are the warning signs or concerns to watch for?
Do you do revisions and at what cost?
The best way to avoid a botched surgery is to make sure that you are in the hands of a competent and skilled doctor that has the background and experience to not only perform the surgery but to handle any complications that may arise during or after the surgery is over.