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When is a Failed Plastic Surgery Procedure Considered Malpractice?

Social media and influencers have put plastic surgery procedures more into the mainstream over the last couple years even though they have been common for a long time. According to Health Research Funding (HRF), 14.6 million cosmetic surgeries are completed in the United States each year.

With that many procedures happening annually, it only makes sense that some of them go wrong. In fact, about 1% of all plastic surgeries result in complications. That might sound small, but that averages out to about 150,000 patients a year with complications. When a cosmetic procedure goes terribly wrong, you may have legal options depending on the outcome of the procedure and to the effect it has affected you.

Common Types of Plastic Surgery

Whether it’s medically necessary or purely cosmetic, plastic surgeries help people feel better about their appearance. Here are some of the most common cosmetic procedures that patients get done:

  • Breast augmentation or reduction
  • Liposuction and tummy tuck
  • Buttocks augmentation
  • Face lifts, filler, and chemical peels
  • Rhinoplasty or nose reshaping
  • Neck lift
  • Laser hair removal

HRF claims that the most common adverse reactions to plastic surgeries are infections, allergic reactions, blood clots, scarring, and death of skin or nerve tissues. So when are these reactions considered malpractice?

What is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional causes an injury to a patient from negligence. Some of the situations that lead to negligence during a plastic surgery procedure include the following:

  • Pre-op errors. If a doctor did not ask about your full medical history before operating, errors in medications can occur. Without your full information, a doctor might not know all of your allergies, and then a surgical error can occur.
  • Surgical errors. Surgical errors could be a doctor leaving instruments in the body, working on the wrong body part, administering improper medicine, or anesthesia complications. Sometimes a surgeon can also cause unnecessary infections from their errors as well.
  • Unskilled surgeons. Not only might the surgeon not be fully skilled enough to perform your surgery, they might practice for the wrong reasons. Since most cosmetic surgeries are not covered by insurance, the surgeon gets full payment immediately. This can be tempting for surgeons to do more cosmetic surgeries even if they’re not qualified.
  • Failure to obtain informed consent. A surgeon must discuss with you any risks that come with the surgery. If they do not tell you all the risks, you cannot fully consent to the procedure.

Even though it might seem obvious that it is the doctor’s fault if they are negligent and cause injuries during a cosmetic procedure, a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) found that 65.5% of cases involving plastic surgery are ruled in favor of the defendant, or the doctor. This is due to the fact that most cosmetic surgeries are elective. You often have to sign a waiver before having many procedures, in fact, saying that you understand there are risks involved.

This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to win a medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor or facility that performed a failed cosmetic operation, however. The simple fact is that medical malpractice claims exist to deter every type of doctor– even plastic surgeons– from committing acts of negligence. These cases can be very complex, but if it can be proven that the doctor or surgical staff operated with excessive or ill-intended negligence, or that the patient has suffered unreasonably after they were injured, then a case against a cosmetic surgery team may succeed in court.

Malpractice Laws in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, the medical malpractice statute of limitations is two years from when the patient realizes they have suffered an injury from the procedure. Even if the injury took two years to appear, you still have two years after that to file a claim. The state does not have a cap on economic or non-economic medical malpractice damages. So if you win your case, you can be fully awarded for any financial and emotional losses.

It’s important to know, though, that in Pennsylvania, you must file a certificate of merit within 60 days of filing your claim. The certificate must be signed by the medical malpractice attorney and states that “a licensed professional deviated from an acceptable professional standard.” Talk more with your medical malpractice lawyer if you have any questions.

If you have experienced medical malpractice during a cosmetic procedure, you could be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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