Beware The Cosmetic Surgeon

We all want to look like we are young and healthy, even those of us in our later years.  Beauty is big business and, wherever there is big business, you can be sure charlatans will follow.  This is true in medicine and particularly true in cosmetic surgery.

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Unlike many other areas of medicine in which a doctor’s compensation depends on insurance company reimbursement rates, most cosmetic surgery is paid for by the patient.  Most often cosmetic surgery is not covered by medical insurance so the cosmetic surgeon is free to charge what the market will bear.  In the case of cosmetic surgery, the market will often bear a pretty high price.  After all, what would you pay to look young and beautiful forever?

The Arizona Medical Board does not require that a doctor doing cosmetic surgery be formally trained in it or be the graduate of a plastic surgery residency program.  It does require that doctors be competent to perform the procedures they do but leaves it up to them how they get training, how long the training is and how detailed it is.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, some doctors take a very liberal view of the amount of training they need before they begin cutting on your face or body.  I have seen cases where an eye doctor went for a weekend training course in botox or liposuction and then began to treat the public.  With all due respect, even the greatest and most talented doctors aren’t going to learn all they need to know in a weekend training course.

It doesn’t take a very lengthy Google search to find horror stories about cosmetic surgery gone wrong.  Often it was performed by someone not formally trained in it.  Often it was performed in the doctor’s office or surgical suite.  Sometimes it wasn’t even performed by a doctor.  Performing these procedures away from hospitals solves the messy problem of proving to the hospital that you are qualified to do the procedure.  Unfortunately, it exposes the patient to much higher risk, if anything goes wrong during or after the surgery.

For many cosmetic surgeons today, their web page designer is more important to their financial success than their training and competence.  If you look at the web sites for these surgeons, you see pictures of beautiful people with flawless skin and shapely bodies.  You may see testimonials from former patients to the skill and results of the surgeon.  If you are in the market for cosmetic surgery, don’t let the web site be the end of your search for a good surgeon.  Anyone can hire models to pose for supposedly “after” pictures.  Anyone can curate a list of testimonials from among their patients.  Dig deeper.

I personally believe it is very foolish to go to any cosmetic surgeon who is not board certified in plastic surgery.  Board certification does not guarantee you a good outcome but does guarantee that the surgeon has spent a couple of years being trained what to do.

Watch out for overpromising surgeons.  Not all patients are created equal.  Not all skin is created equal.  Not all patients will heal the same way.  If this is not your first time around for this type of surgery, the surgeon may have to deal with scars and tissue that is not as likely to heal as well as it did the first time.

Check the Arizona Medical Board, or your local board if you are not seeing an Arizona surgeon.  Has this surgeon been the subject of complaints?  Has this surgeon been the subject of discipline by the board?

In short, do your homework so you don’t end up the subject of one of the cosmetic surgery horror stories on the evening news.

Posted in Arizona Medical Board, Board Certification, Doctors, Fee for Service, Fraud, Health Insurers, Hospitals, medical errors, medical ethics, Medical Malpractice, medical mistakes, Medical Negligence, Plastic Surgery |