Cosmetic surgery is almost always elective surgery designed to improve ones appearance. However, it is still surgery and can result in serious and life-altering health consequences. There are several issues that arise frequently with cosmetic surgery.
First, many plastic surgeons operate in their office and perform multi-hour complicated procedures under general anesthesia. If an emergency arises they are often ill-equipped to address it so far from a hospital. Also, many plastic surgeons use nurse anesthetists instead of doctor anesthesiologists to save money. During a complicated procedure it is a nurse who manages a patient’s breathing, circulation, and airway!
Another current trend is for non-plastic surgeons to perform plastic surgery procedures. Obstetricians and other non-surgeons are taking weekend courses in liposuction and holding themselves out as experts. Optometrists are offering cosmetic procedures. The result is inexperienced doctors venturing out of their expertise, and frequently causing undesirable results.
Problems also frequently arise when patients have co-morbidities (other serious health issues, like diabetes, high blood pressure, or some other disease processes). We unfortunately see too many cases where the plastic surgeon should not have risked the patent’s life and health by placing them under general anesthesia and performing invasive procedures.
Nerve damage and disfigurement are yet more devastating results of these procedures. Still, the most tragic cosmetic surgery cases involve death and brain damage. Cosmetic surgery is both art and science, and there is never a guarantee that a patient will be satisfied with his or her cosmetic result (within reason). However, no patient assumes the risk of going to a plastic surgeon to make their breasts or nose look better and losing their life or sustaining a brain injury as a result. This is particularly true when you consider that the surgery was not necessary (required for health reasons) in the first place.
An example of a plastic surgery case handled by the attorneys at Kelley/Uustal is the case of a woman who went to plastic surgeon for a tummy-tuck. The woman was overweight and had high-blood pressure, but the surgeon convinced her to have the operation in his office anyway. During the procedure her blood pressure was allowed to go dangerously low, and she went into cardiac arrest. The surgeon was unable to resuscitate her and she tragically died as a result. A $2.2 million recovery was made on behalf of the woman’s husband and children.