Being safe in the Wild West of cosmetic procedures | Allen and Allen

Being safe in the Wild West of cosmetic procedures  

Americans spend a considerable amount of money attempting to improve their physical appearance through elective plastic and cosmetic procedures. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimates that in 2020, Americans spent $16.7 billion dollars alone on such procedures.   

circle of doctors looking down on operating table

To put into perspective what a monumental expenditure this is, Americans spent more money on cosmetic procedures than the country of Turkey spent equipping its entire military in 2020. This amount does not include cosmetic procedures done by non-surgical professionals, such as estheticians and beauticians who perform facials, waxing, hair styling, cosmetic tattooing, and more.   

Every year, approximately 2 million women and 300,000 men undergo a cosmetic procedure, where a general anesthetic is provided. Another 13.2 million Americans receive minimally-invasive procedures such as laser hair removal, chemical peels or Botox injections.   

The dangers of cosmetic surgery

 Unsurprisingly, given the sheer amount of cosmetic procedures that occur every year in the U.S., there is a sizable amount of error, which has led to death, injury and disfigurement. In fact, 1 out of every 50,000 people die from elective cosmetic procedures. This is about 100 deaths a year 

 It is more difficult to obtain accurate statistics about injuries and disfigurements. Oftentimes, personal injury settlements surrounding injury and disfigurement claims are confidential, and simply blame negligence.   

doctor holding saline breast implant

Who can legally perform plastic surgery in Virginia?

There is a grey area in the Commonwealth regarding plastic surgery and who can perform it. Although Virginia regulates medical procedures, it does not restrict doctors from performing them outside of their training or specialty, if a patient consents to it.   

Virginia doctors can perform cosmetic procedures outside of strict hospital credentialing by simply setting up surgical suites in their own office. Unfortunately, and predictably, inexperienced doctors performing technically difficult procedures has resulted in injury and disfigurement.   

A dangerous new trend in cosmetic surgery

Dr. Anthony Youn wrote about these dangers in his article Plastic Surgery: the Wild West of Medicine. He explained that many doctors leave their chosen specialty and begin practicing cosmetic surgery or procedures because of the sheer amount of money involved. This is often done with little training and no plastic surgery board certification.   

He describes how an eye doctor performed breast implants on a patient, with the surgery going so badly that the implants ended up in the patient’s arm pits. This required extensive corrective and reconstructive surgery. He described another procedure where an ear nose and throat doctor botched a liposuction. His patient was left with her stomach deeply rippled with sizable lumps, which unfortunately is permanent. These botched surgeries are far more common than they ought to be.  

woman considering plastic surgery

For those considering plastic surgery

If you are considering having plastic surgery, proper vetting is important. Find a surgeon who is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery – the only plastic surgery board that is recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. The last thing you want is an ear, nose and throat doctor performing your tummy tuck.  

The Commonwealth does not require that a medical doctor perform minimally invasive procedures, like laser hair removal. It only requires that a doctor supervises the practice that performs the procedures. The procedures themselves are often (hopefully) performed by nurse practitioners, physician assistants or ‘properly trained persons’ under the direction or supervision of a doctor.  

Surprisingly, a doctor is supposed to be supervising, yet isn’t required to be in the room during the procedure. New York and Virginia are the only two states in the nation that allow non-medical personnel to run laser machines. Sadly, this came to a head in 2017, when one poor patient was burned at a med spa. It was discovered that an employee allowed their janitor to run the hair removal laser. The patient took her horror story to Virginia Delegate Mark Keam who pushed the Virginia Assembly to adopt House Bill 2119, which failed to pass. 

woman receiving a lip injection

How to choose a business for a non-surgical cosmetic procedure

If you are considering a minimally invasive procedure such as Botox, chemical peels or laser hair removal, the vetting process is harder. This is because it likely won’t be a doctor doing the procedure.  

  • Pick a practice that is supervised by a doctor or surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or the American Board of Dermatology.  
  • Do your homework. Ask your friends where they went and if they were satisfied. 
  • Use www.vacourts.gov to see if the practice you are considering has been sued for malpractice.  

 If you have been injured due to the negligence of a doctor, nurse practitioner, esthetician, or company performing a cosmetic procedure, you don’t need to suffer in silence.  Recovering for damages is a possibility. Call the experienced and compassionate medical malpractice attorneys at Allen & Allen today for a free consultation, at 866-388-1307.