February 12, 2011 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver
Last week we told you about “Dotti,” the 20-year-old woman who had breast augmentation surgery performed by a “dangerously incompetent surgeon,” according to board-certified plastic surgeons who examined her one year after the operation.
“She was simply one of many victims of this guy where it’s all about money, and patient care takes a back seat. Dotti never should have had the operation in the first place, didn’t need it, and in any event, belonged on a psychologist’s couch, not an operating table,” both doctors told You and the Law.
“In addition to having breasts which now droop, are oblong in shape, grossly large for her body frame size and ugly scars, she has lost a great deal of sensation and experiences constant discomfort. This poor girl is facing several surgeries in an effort to repair the damage done,” one commented.
The other was highly critical of her family. “They failed to protect her from herself and from the doctor. This 20-year-old woman was a poster child of immaturity and insecurity, with far too many piercings and tattoos all over her body. She wanted attention and recognition, believing larger breasts would give that to her, even though she was not flat-chested to begin with. Pre-surgical photos revealed a well-proportioned, slender, 5’3″ young woman with no justification at all for breast augmentation surgery. Her sick need for attention was an open door for an unethical surgeon to enrich himself at her expense. Someone in her family should have at least tried to stop her, but no one did.”
Yet, even before Dotti entered the doctor’s office, there were signs that she would be in the wrong doctor’s office. But she, like so many women, did not know what to ask, nor what to look for.
We discussed Dotti’s case with Beverly Hills attorney Ray Feinberg, who specializes in medical malpractice and has represented clients whose breast implant surgeries went terribly wrong. He outlined what to ask and how to find the answers.
Only go to a board-certified plastic surgeon
“You only want to seek advice regarding breast augmentation from a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. This requires completing at least three years of general surgery resident training and then a plastic surgery residency of at least two years, and passing a comprehensive set of oral and written exams.
“Unfortunately, a large amount of plastic surgery procedures are performed by physicians who have only limited training and experience, such as weekend courses in breast augmentation or liposuction. Legally, any physician licensed in California can do any kind of medical or surgical procedure regardless of experience or board certification. This explains why many doctors who have specialty training in other fields, such as ENT or OBGYN, represent themselves as plastic surgeons and take advantage of the substantial profits to be made.
“Do not be confused by membership in some medical board or other organization of questionable repute or not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties. It is often advertising, pure and simple.”
Had Dotti done even the slightest amount of research, she would have learned that her doctor was not a board-certified plastic surgeon, and that comments from many of his patients were very negative, to list just a few of the clues available about him online.
Risks need to be discussed
“A good surgeon and staff will thoroughly discuss complications of the procedure. For breast augmentations, the doctor should discuss advantages and disadvantages of saline and silicone, as well as size, shape and contour. In one of our cases, an office assistant was encouraging the patient to get a larger size, claiming it would be more attractive to men. This is totally wrong.
“These can be situations where the patient is emotionally vulnerable, and that is why it is always a good idea to bring someone along who is present during all of the meetings with doctor and staff. If it looks more like a sales promotion than a physician who cares about your appearance, then stay away.
“If you have any feelings of being uncomfortable with the physician or staff, stay away.”
“Finally, there are risks in these procedures which do not mean that the doctor was negligent. Rupture of the silicone or the saline, infection, disfigurement, need for further surgery, hematoma (bleeding) and some scarring are seen as acceptable risks.
“As a general rule, lawyers do not take on these cases unless there is very significant injury. This includes permanent scarring, disfigurement, ongoing damage, infection and psychological injury. These are expensive cases to pursue. You do not want to have one.
“In every one of the cases which our office handled, it was clear the women did not need the surgery in the first place. Very few women do. Respect what Nature has given us.”
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.