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Can I Sue the Doctor if I Don’t Like My Cosmetic Surgery Results?

There was a time in the past when cosmetic surgery seemed to be reserved primarily for the wealthy and famous. In fact, it has long been fodder for magazines, television commentators, fans, and critics alike to carefully scrutinize celebrities for signs of cosmetic surgery. Publications even show “before and after” photos to make the comparisons easier.

But today, cosmetic surgery is affordable to the middle class and has become quite mainstream. So what happens if the results of the cosmetic surgery don’t meet a patient’s expectations? Does the patient have a right to sue?

We’ll discuss that issue in this article.

Are Cosmetic Surgery and Plastic Surgery the Same Thing?

To start with, we’ll focus on some definitions. Some people use the terms “cosmetic surgery” and “plastic surgery” interchangeably. Are they exactly the same? Not according to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery (ABCS).

The ABCS notes that the two types of surgery are related, but have different goals. These goals affect a number of things, including the way doctors are trained and the way in which patient goals are established.

While both types of surgery seek to improve a patient’s body, cosmetic surgery is focused on improving the patient’s appearance. Presumably, the person obtaining surgery does not have a problem with the functionality of the part of the body on which the operation is performed. Rather, the patient seeks to look better.

In a future article, we’ll discuss plastic surgery in greater detail, while focusing on cosmetic surgery in this article. Following are some common types of cosmetic surgery:

  • Facelift
  • Breast Augmentation
  • Rhinoplasty (nose job)
  • Liposuction
  • Tummy Tuck
  • Botox Injections
  • Breast Reduction
  • Eyelid Lift
  • Hair Transplant
  • Lip Augmentation

What if a Patient Doesn’t Like Cosmetic Surgery Results?

A patient’s opinion of the results, alone, is not enough to support a lawsuit against a surgeon or other medical professional. The real question that must be answered is whether the doctor has committed medical malpractice.

To be liable for medical malpractice, the doctor must have been negligent, which caused harm to the patient. Negligence exists if the doctor failed to exercise the degree of skill or care exercised by other doctors who perform the same types of surgeries in the area.

If a doctor performs reasonably, but the patient simply dislikes his or her appearance, the doctor will not be legally liable for the results.

However, there are many circumstances in which medical negligence is present in a cosmetic surgery. Below, we’ll briefly discuss a few.

  • Surgical Errors – Sometimes, doctors make huge mistakes, like operating on the wrong part of the body or just performing a common surgery incorrectly. This can lead to the loss of functionality of a body part, such as an eye. Patients can also suffer loss of skin, nerve damage, and abnormal scarring. Doctors have on some occasions used the wrong breast implant sizes.
  • Anesthesia Errors – Just as with any surgery, anesthesia can be applied negligently, resulting in great harm to a patient.
  • Medication Errors – Doctors may prescribe an incorrect medication, or one to which a patient has a known allergy. Similarly, hospital pharmacists can make an error filling a prescription. Nurses may make mistakes in giving medication to a patient. Other examples are using the wrong strength or the wrong dosage of a medication.
  • Hospital Negligence – Some patients suffer harm from negligent behavior from hospital staff or negligence by nurses or other medical care providers. A patient may slip and fall or suffer from post-operative infections.

A Jury May Be Required

Lawyers representing doctors and other medical care providers often point out that a particular procedure was purely elective and that the patient simply doesn’t care for the new appearance.

However, if a medical professional has performed negligently, society is made safer for everyone when practitioners are held accountable for medical malpractice. Sometimes, a jury is required to hear the evidence and make the final determination.

While the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield work hard to reach fair settlements, we are also experienced trial lawyers and ready to take a case to a jury.

Call with Questions

If you have questions about your cosmetic surgery, or believe that you are a victim of medical malpractice in any way, you may have questions about medical procedures, legal procedures, or your rights. Please call and we will be happy to answer them.