When Plastic Surgery Goes Wrong

But the risk can go up dramatically if the facilities or the surgeon is not up to snuff. The complications Hendry experienced are rare and a result of malpractice on the part of her surgeon, Dr. Gustav Aniansson -- who she successfully sued. Hendry became an advocate for better cosmetic surgery safety in the years before her death.

In West's case, her surgeon, Dr. Jan Adams, told the press numerous times that he was not responsible for West's death. However, an Associated Press report at the time revealed that he had two malpractice suits filed against him that ended in payouts. These lawsuits, both settled in 2001, ended in payouts of $217,337 and $250,000. West had reportedly been denied surgery at the hands of a different plastic surgeon, Dr. Andre Aboolian, on the grounds that she had a pre-existing condition.

According to Dr. Michael McGuire, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the key to minimizing the risks of these procedures is a mantra known as the ABCs of plastic surgery: accreditation of the facility where the procedure is performed, board certification of the surgeon, and checking out the credentials of the surgeon.

"In this country, only 14 states require that the facility where the procedure is performed is licensed or accredited for safety," McGuire says, adding that it's important for the patient to check on this.

When choosing a surgeon, it can be extremely easy to be deceived into believing that a doctor has the proper credentials when they do not, McGuire says.

The primary concern is that they are board certified by the right boards, McGuire, Brody and Roth say.

"There are a number of non-qualified boards that are developed by individuals with the intent of deceiving the public," McGuire points out, noting that just a "board certification" is not sufficient proof of the doctor's merit; it must be the board certification from the American Board of Plastic Surgeons.

You can find a list of board certified surgeons on the ASPS's Web site.

Picking the Right Doctor

"And forget all the advertisements," Brody says. "Anyone who advertises is someone you want to be careful of."

"It's a buyer beware situation, you cannot assume because someone has an MD that they are necessarily ethical, truthful, or appropriately trained," McGuire says.

Next, do your homework and ask the surgeon lots of questions about his or her credentials when you meet, Roth and McGuire say.

Make sure that he or she is qualified in a number of different ways of approaching the issue you bring in, Roth notes, "so that whatever the situation is, whatever the area that patients want improved, the surgeon has the training to offer all the options."

"You might even ask for before and after pictures and ask the doctor how many of that procedure they've performed," Roth says, and above all, "ask questions, have a frank conversation with your surgeon about the risks, and don't be in a hurry."

Also, ask the surgeon if he or she has surgery privileges at a nearby hospital, says McGurie, as this is another way to gauge credentials because hospitals only allow qualified surgeons these privileges.

For Hendry, it was a lack of these ABCs that may have increased her likelihood of complications, McGuire says.

"It was not a board certified surgeon who did the surgery, the facility was not nationally accredited and the doctor did not have local hospital privileges."

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