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Malpractice Risks In Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery can be conducted for a variety of reasons. At times, such procedures are done purely for aesthetic reasons: the patient is unhappy with a certain facet of their appearance and wishes to alter it in order to have increased confidence. Other times, plastic surgery can be conducted after a serious injury that has damaged part of the body, such as skin grafts following a burn injury. Such procedures can also follow removal of a body party due to cancer treatment: many women undergo breast augmentation after a mastectomy. While many plastic surgery procedures are performed fairly often, there are some risks involved to the patient.

Plastic surgery medical malpractice can be scary for both the doctor and the patient as claims are often brought due to serious injury or death while doctors are at risk for losing their livelihood. When a doctor departs from accepted medical practice and injury or death of a patient occurs as a result of that deviation from the standard of care, the doctor may be held liable for their actions by way of a medical malpractice claim. Under such circumstances, the patient is entitled to recover for past and future: pain and suffering, medical expenses, and loss of earnings.

The improper performance of a procedure is the most common cause of a medical malpractice claim. This type of error occurs most often in skin, nose, eyelid, and breast procedures.

Who is Most At Risk for Malpractice?

A study conducted by the Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons looked at all medical malpractice claims filed from 1985 to 2010. During that time frame, 256,225 total claims were identified, of which 9,312 (3.6%) represented plastic surgery claims. Of the $16 billion paid for all medical specialties combined, the total payment for liability claims for plastic surgery procedures was $297 million (1.86%).

Doctors performing these plastic surgery procedures were usually male (74.5%), between the ages of 35 and 54 (70.1%). Additionally, the doctors performing plastic surgery procedures that garnered medical malpractice claims were not necessarily all board-certified plastic surgeons. When these procedures are done in a hospital, generally there is a board certified anesthesiologist and a staff of nurses, critical care nurses, and others who deliver the anesthesia, monitor the patient during the surgery, make sure the patient recovers properly after the surgery, and avoids surgical complications. When the elective procedure is performed in a doctor’s office or surgical center, anesthesia may be given by nurse anesthetists who may not have extensive experience working with anesthesia, giving rise to potential complications.

According to the study, doctors performing plastic surgery procedures ranked 8th in the total number of claims filed and 13th in total amount paid.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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