Your Guide to Plastic Surgery Medical Malpractice
Cosmetic or plastic surgery is like any other branch of medicine. Doctors are required to undergo specialized training and follow certain minimum standards of care for their profession. If a provider deviates from these standards and the patient suffers injuries as a result, the patient has the right to file a medical malpractice claim and seek monetary damages as compensation.
Statistics on Cosmetic Surgery Complications
Generally, plastic surgery is considered safe. However, there are a thousand ways things could go wrong. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, in more than 26,000 cases reviewed over a 23-year period (1995 to 2017), there were complications reported in about 200 cases. The study concluded that plastic surgery was “safe to perform in an accredited outpatient facility for the majority of patients.”
However, just because complications are rare, it does not mean they are non-existent. According to the Mayo Clinic, several possible complications can arise from any surgical procedure, including:
- Infection at the incision site that may lead to scarring and require additional cosmetic procedures to correct
- Separation of the surgical wound or abnormal scarring due to a breakdown of the skin
- Fluid buildup under the skin
- Significant bleeding that requires a transfusion
- Permanent nerve damage
- Complications from the use of anesthesia that may lead to potentially fatal blood clots
The Riskiest Procedure
Certain types of plastic surgery procedures may prove riskier than others. One common procedure is the so-called Brazilian butt lift (BBL). In recent years many people within the plastic surgery industry have sounded the alarm about the high risk of complications from BBL procedures.
In 2018, the Miami Herald reported that there have been at least six deaths in Miami-Dade County dating back to 2013 due to complications that arose during BBL surgery. In one such case, a 40-year-old woman from Louisiana died after undergoing the procedure at a “Miami storefront clinic.” The cause of death was fat clots traveling from the site of the buttocks injection into the victim’s heart and lungs.
The Herald noted the doctor who performed the fatal BBL was not a board-certified plastic surgeon. Rather, they were a “family doctor” who carried no medical malpractice insurance. This highlights yet another risk associated with profitable procedures like BBLs–they often draw less qualified doctors who are looking to make a quick buck.
Can You Sue for Plastic Surgery Complications?
There are always risks associated with any surgical procedure. Plastic surgery is no different. Even a purely elective procedure designed to improve a person’s appearance can lead to serious or life-threatening complications if the doctor deviates from accepted medical standards. At the same time, not every complication is considered medical malpractice from a legal standpoint.
Being unhappy with your physical appearance following a cosmetic procedure is not, in and of itself, a basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit. You must show an injury that occurred as a result of the procedure. You must also prove that the surgeon, or someone on their team, was negligent in a way that caused the injury.
NY Statute of Limitations
If you decide to sue your plastic surgeon for malpractice, there are certain legal deadlines you need to know. Notably, the statute of limitations.
In New York, a plaintiff has 30 months (or two-and-a-half years) to sue a healthcare provider for medical negligence. This clock generally starts to run on the day the malpractice occurs, but it may be extended in certain cases if the complication was not discovered immediately.
Plastic Surgery Medical Malpractice Settlements
Many patients are reluctant to file a medical malpractice lawsuit because they fear their case will be dragged out for years in court. In reality, the majority of plastic surgery medical malpractice claims (over 90 percent based on some studies) are settled out of court. Particularly in cases involving serious complications or death, most doctors will not take the risk of sending a case to a jury. Most reputable plastic surgeons also carry medical malpractice insurance, meaning that the insurance companies often push to settle a viable claim.
What to Know Before Filing a Case
As with any potential civil lawsuit, you need to gather evidence before suing a plastic surgeon for medical malpractice. You can start with your medical records. Under federal law, you have the right to demand any medical records from your healthcare provider related to your care. This includes doctor’s notes, lab results, films, and imaging. You should also take down the names, roles, and contact information of any potential witnesses, including other medical staff present during your procedure. It is also important to keep documentation of your financial losses that resulted from the malpractice. This includes additional medical bills and any records of lost income.
Get the Help You Need Today
30 months is not as much time as you may think when investigating and building a successful medical malpractice case. It is important that you consult with a qualified medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible following your surgical complication.