Cosmetic Surgery Safety in New York
Given all the publicity about recent deaths associated with aesthetic clinics in Florida, you may be wondering about your safety here in New York. Cosmetic surgery is still surgery—even though it’s elective and you may look forward to it instead of dread it—and you know you need to do some research to minimize possible risks and complications.
Here’s some information that may help.
Background on the Florida Cases
The well-publicized cosmetic surgery tragedies in Florida caused a wave of shock and dismay throughout the industry. In case you missed the news, USA Today investigated several clinics earlier this year and documented horrific complications and fatalities. One article, last updated in April, detailed how four convicted felons legally opened cosmetic surgery storefronts in the southern part of the state. Together, the clinics caused nearly a dozen complications requiring hospitalization and at least 13 deaths.
In perhaps the most appalling case, the Naples Daily News investigated a doctor whose high-volume clinics are responsible for eight cosmetic surgery deaths in six years. The physician, who was once suspended for hiring unlicensed workers to perform procedures, used a variety of tactics to lure patients including cut-rate prices, heavy social media advertising, paying non-board certified doctors on commission, allowing surgery scheduling “from morning to night,” unmonitored recoveries and delayed treatment for complications. As trouble mounted, the doctor would change the name of the clinic and go on with the business that funded his lavish lifestyle.
Laws in Florida May Be Changing
In response to the situation in their state, Florida legislators recently passed a bill designed to help authorities crack down on these kinds of clinics. The law apparently awaits the governor’s signature now.
The new legislation would require each clinic to have a doctor on staff responsible for the facility’s safety and would also obligate clinics to carry at least $250,000 in malpractice insurance. In addition, the state would have the power to shut down cosmetic surgery practices deemed unsafe and ban the owner and doctors from working in another Florida clinic for five years.
New York Cosmetic Surgery Laws
So what’s the story on New York cosmetic surgery safety? Can patients elect procedures with confidence? Local media outlets indicate the picture is mixed. An article in USA Today a few years ago maintained that our state has some of the most stringent laws covering in-office and medical spa surgeries. What’s different here than in many other states is that patients who require more than “minimal” sedation, or who will have more than 500cc of fat removed during liposuction, must be operated on in an accredited surgery center. That’s a step in the right direction.
There’s a very big “but,” however. That same article pointed out that ANY doctor can perform cosmetic surgery in an unaccredited facility under local anesthesia only. This is how many physicians—such as gynecologists, dermatologists, and private practitioners—are able to add procedures such as liposuction, breast augmentation and facial cosmetic surgery to their menu.
Indeed, according to local station PIX11, five years ago one midtown doctor generated multiple complaints from patients who were both unhappy with their treatment in his office and dismayed at their surgical results. It took the state until this year to shut him down, reported the New York Post. The Board of Professional Medical Conduct cited 16 allegations of misconduct “including gross incompetence and negligence.” The doctor, a licensed gynecologist who performed surgery in off-hours in his office, also had 15 malpractice lawsuits filed against him in six years.
Safe Cosmetic Surgery in New York
In the midst of this alarming picture, what’s a prospective patient to do? The first thing you must keep in mind is that, until and unless regulations are tightened, your safety is in good part up to you. You should resolve to hold off on decision making until you have done plenty of research, starting with local laws. For New York, cosmetic surgery information is available from the Department of Health here.
Here are some additional recommendations:
• Only consider plastic surgeons who are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. All other “boards” have less rigorous requirements.
• Never base your choice of a surgeon on just one source of information, especially if that source is advertising or social media.
• Make sure the surgical facility is accredited by the Joint Commission or by the AAAASF or AAAHC. Those are the three organizations our state’s health department approves.
• Find out whether your doctor has admitting privileges at a reputable local hospital. This could be important in case of an emergency.
Finally, if your doctor proposes only local anesthesia, we suggest you think twice about going ahead. Unless the procedure is non-invasive, such as an injectable or skin treatment, you could very well be headed for cut-rate, assembly line surgery. We know of no cosmetic surgery that can be performed comfortably for the patient and with the best possible results without twilight sedation (which we favor) or general anesthesia.
Call us if we can be of help: 212-570-6080.