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Can I Hold My Cosmetic Surgeon Liable for Medical Malpractice?

February 19, 2024

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When many people think of surgeons committing medical malpractice, they think of mistakes made during major operations like open-heart surgery, joint replacement, and organ transplantation. When surgeons make mistakes during these procedures, patients can develop serious and often fatal complications.

However, there’s another type of surgery where major mistakes can happen that can also put patients at risk of developing severe, life-altering health problems: cosmetic surgery. Although cosmetic surgery is voluntary and chosen by patients, cosmetic surgery patients still face risks, especially when their surgeons are poorly trained, inexperienced, or negligent.

If you or someone you love was harmed during cosmetic surgery, here’s what you need to know about holding your surgeon liable for medical malpractice.

What Constitutes Medical Malpractice in Cosmetic Surgery?

Medical malpractice occurs when healthcare professionals, such as cosmetic surgeons, deviate from the standard of care in the medical community and injure or harm patients.

In cosmetic surgery, this could mean an error during the operation, post-operative negligence, or even failing to adequately inform the patient about the risks associated with the procedure.

What Are the Key Elements for a Successful Medical Malpractice Claim?

To have a valid medical malpractice claim against a cosmetic surgeon, four key elements must be proven:

  • Doctor-Patient Relationship: There must be a formal relationship, meaning the surgeon agreed to treat you.
  • Breach of Standard of Care: The surgeon’s actions must have deviated from what is considered acceptable and customary in the cosmetic surgery field.
  • Causation: This deviation from an acceptable and customary treatment plan directly caused you injury or harm.
  • Damages: You must have suffered quantifiable harm, such as physical pain, mental anguish, additional medical bills, or loss of work, as a result of the deviation.

What Are Common Types of Malpractice in Cosmetic Surgery?

Common types of malpractice in cosmetic surgery include:

  • Surgical Errors: These are mistakes made during the actual surgery, such as incorrect incision location, asymmetry in procedures like breast augmentations or facelifts, or performing the wrong surgery.
  • Anesthesia Errors: Improper administration of anesthesia can lead to serious complications, including brain damage, heart problems, or in extreme cases, death.
  • Infections and Poor Post-Operative Care: Failing to maintain sterile conditions during surgery or inadequate post-operative care can lead to infections, which can have severe consequences.
  • Nerve Damage: During cosmetic surgery, there's a risk of damaging nerves, which can lead to loss of sensation, mobility issues, or chronic pain.
  • Scarring and Disfigurement: While some scarring is expected in many surgeries, excessive or unexpected scarring, especially due to surgical errors, can be considered malpractice.
  • Implant and Filler Complications: Complications from implants (such as breast implants) or fillers, including rupture, displacement, or reactions, can be due to surgical errors or product defects.
  • Poor Cosmetic Outcome: While subjective, a poor outcome that significantly deviates from the agreed-upon result—especially if it's due to negligence—might be considered malpractice.

Many people think that signing a waiver, release of liability, or consent form before their cosmetic procedures means they can’t sue their surgeons or pursue compensation via medical malpractice claims. While consent forms do provide some degree of protection to cosmetic surgeons and their clinics, they don’t shield them from all liability, especially if complications or harm outside the norm for the procedure occurred due to negligence.

If you’re thinking about filing a claim against a cosmetic surgeon and you signed a consent form, here’s what you need to know about its purpose and role in your claim:

  • Informed Consent: The primary function of a consent form is to document that the patient has been informed about and understands the risks, benefits, and alternatives to the procedure. It's a critical part of the patient's right to make informed decisions about their healthcare.

  • Limitations of Consent Forms: A consent form is not a blanket protection for all types of harm. It typically covers known risks and complications that can occur even when the surgery is performed correctly — but doesn’t cover unexpected outcomes due to unacceptable errors.
  • The Role of Disclosure: For a consent form to be effective, the surgeon must fully disclose all relevant risks and information about the procedure. If the surgeon fails to explain certain risks or coerces the patient into signing, the form may not be legally binding.

In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the standard of care and whether it was breached is a critical consideration. Even if you signed a consent form, you may still have a valid claim if your surgeon failed to meet the standard of care.

In addition, the interpretation of consent forms and their enforceability can vary. The specifics of each case, the language of the consent form, and the circumstances under which it was signed can all influence legal outcomes. An experienced lawyer can review your consent form and determine which parts, if any, hold up in the eyes of the law, especially if you were harmed because of your surgeon’s negligence.

Contact Our Ohio Medical Malpractice Lawyers for a Free Consultation

If you believe you are a victim of cosmetic surgery malpractice, it's important to act quickly due to the statute of limitations in Ohio. You have just one year from the date of your surgery or when you believe malpractice occurred to file a claim against the surgeon, clinic, or hospital where your surgery took place.

The Ohio medical malpractice attorneys at Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy know how devastating cosmetic surgery mistakes and negligence can be for patients. Disability, disfigurement, infection, scarring, and more can change your life forever. Contact us today to learn how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.

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