When is Failed Plastic Surgery Considered Malpractice?

September 22, 2023

Medical science is nothing short of a genuine marvel. Centuries of improvements allow today’s doctors to save and prolong lives in ways that couldn’t even be dreamed of mere decades ago. Medical science also offers ways to improve the quality of people’s lives through the use of plastic surgery, which is an equally amazing technology when it works as designed.

Be that as it may, unfortunately plastic surgeries sometimes fail, and when they do, the results can cause more harm than the procedure was ever intended to correct. If you are a victim of failed plastic surgery, you may wonder whether you can sue your doctor for medical malpractice; if so, you’ll need to know what to do before filing a lawsuit.

What is Plastic Surgery?

Plastic surgery can be classified in two ways — reconstructive or cosmetic. Overall, it is a special type of surgery involving the alteration, restoration, or reconstruction of a part of the human body.

Reconstructive plastic surgery is geared toward restoring function and normal appearance and often seeks to correct any deformities caused by trauma or medical conditions, or even birth defects. These surgeries are seen as medically necessary.

Cosmetic plastic surgery differs in that it is an elective or voluntary surgery. Its goal is to enhance one’s appearance, and it is not medically necessary.

Examples of elective cosmetic plastic surgery include face lifts, rhinoplasty, liposuction, breast augmentation, and various others. Reconstructive or medically necessary plastic surgery includes skin grafts for burns, craniofacial surgery, and breast reconstruction following a mastectomy.

What is Medical Malpractice? How Hard is it to Prove?

Medical malpractice occurs when a physician, medical professional, or facility (including hospitals) causes a patient’s injury by way of a negligent act or omission.

Medical malpractice may occur as a result of one or several issues during plastic surgery, including:

  • Pre-op or surgical errors. Errors made before or during surgery may include administering the wrong anesthesia or the wrong amount, performing incorrect operational procedures, leaving instruments inside the body, or operating on an unintended part of the body.
  • Lack of training or enough experience on the part of the plastic surgeon or staff.
  • Failure to obtain informed consent. Prior to surgery, surgeons are obligated to explain the risks involved and obtain, in writing, your acceptance and acknowledgment of these risks.
  • Failure to obtain and review a patient’s complete medical history. It’s imperative that your surgeon review your complete medical history to identify any allergies, current medications, and past medical issues and complications.

Proving medical malpractice involves complex steps, including the identification of what led to the act or omission, which could be any or all of these.

When is Failed Plastic Surgery Considered Malpractice?

A failed plastic surgery is considered malpractice when injury or adverse conditions result due to negligence on the part of the surgeon.

Common complaints following a plastic surgery gone wrong include the following:

  • Post-operative infections
  • Damage or destruction of nerves, tissues, or skin
  • Blood clots
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Allergic reactions
  • Scarring
  • Excessive bruising or skin discoloration
  • Paralysis
  • Disfigurement.

Suffering some type of negative reaction or effect from your surgery doesn’t necessarily equate to malpractice, however. You will need to prove the following:

  • The plastic surgeon owed you a duty of care.
  • A breach of that duty of care occurred.
  • Such a breach caused injury.
  • The injury sustained caused damages (e.g., medical bills, lost wages, etc.).

The answer, then, to knowing when failed plastic surgery is considered malpractice comes down to proving negligence. Knowing how to do so is imperative to your case and is why a dedicated medical malpractice attorney on your side will be beneficial.

Complications in Proving Medical Malpractice After Botched Plastic Surgery

Pennsylvania doesn’t make it easy to sue a doctor for medical malpractice. Your attorney must file a Certificate of Merit within 60 days of filing the lawsuit. A Certificate of Merit is a document that states that a medical professional has asserted that the doctor who performed your surgery deviated from the appropriate standard of care, resulting in harm. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to find a doctor who is willing to make such an assertion, as many doctors don’t like testifying against others in their profession.

Another major difficulty that comes up is that most plastic surgery is elective, which means that you chose the surgery while knowing the risks and understanding that there was no medical necessity for the surgery at all. Furthermore, you very likely signed a waiver prior to surgery that acknowledges all of the above. Though that shouldn’t matter when clear negligence or recklessness is involved, juries aren’t trained in the law and thus may not see it that way. As such, the threshold for proving your case is higher than it might be in a case involving non-elective surgery with otherwise similar facts.

Last, many victims of medical malpractice are tripped up by the short statute of limitations in Pennsylvania, which gives you only two years to file a lawsuit. That is much less time than it seems: Even if you hire a lawyer the day you were harmed, some cases are complicated enough that they just barely get filed before the deadline.

How a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Can Help

Experienced malpractice attorneys have connections that allow them to obtain Certificates of Merit. They also know how to investigate your case and collect additional evidence necessary to prove the malpractice in court or to a skeptical insurance adjuster. Finally, medical malpractice lawyers have the experience to accurately determine the value of a case, which gives them an advantage when negotiating a settlement that means you won’t receive less money than you rightfully deserve.

Contact Wapner Newman Immediately After a Failed Plastic Surgery

From the moment your failed plastic surgery ended, the clock started ticking on your time to act, which means you can’t afford to wait. Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to fight for fair compensation for the harm you suffered. Contact our law firm today at (215) 569-0900 to schedule a free consultation with medical malpractice lawyers that will help you get the money you deserve.