After going into surgery for a simple repair of her breast implants, Dinora Rodriguez, 40, awoke from the procedure to find that her plastic surgeon had left her with conjoined breasts – a uniboob, essentially. Without her knowledge or permission, the surgeon had also nip/tucked her eyelids, leaving Rodriguez with eyes that to this day cannot close all the way.
Rodriguez learned the hard way -- you always have to vet your plastic surgeon.
"A friend had recommended the doctor to me. My biggest mistake is that I didn't check any of her credentials. I found out later that she had done really bad surgeries on some other people too," Rodriguez told ABCnews.com.
The doctor in question was licensed to practice as a plastic surgeon in California, where Rodriguez lives, but she was not board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.
After a year of pain and disfigurement, Rodriguez sued her doctor for malpractice and says she found out that the corrective surgery on her breasts was not even necessary in the first place.
"She told me that she needed to replace the implants because they were leaking and I believed her. She gave me a good price on the surgery and I said yes," she said.
Now Rodriguez has become the poster child for a new safety campaign spearheaded by the new president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), Dr. Malcolm Roth. The campaign, announced Monday at the annual ASPS conference, warns against "white coat deception" – basically, just because a doctor has a white coat, and even an M.D., doesn't mean they are qualified to perform plastic surgery.
In 48 states it is currently legal in the United States for doctors who are not certified by the board of plastic surgeons to practice cosmetic and plastic surgery.
"This means that we have other physicians creeping in who have taken a course and think they can do plastic surgery," said Roth. "It's not the same as going through six years in training specifically in plastic surgery, plus the continual training and code of ethics that are required for those who are board-certified," he said.
"People spend months or years making a decision on which care they're going to purchase – it's no different when having a procedure performed. Plastic surgery is elective, there's plenty of time to do your homework and that's really all we're asking: do your homework," Roth said.
Rodriguez ended up settling her malpractice suit out of court. She says the compensation she received barely covered her reconstructive surgery she needed. Because the surgeon had cut across the two separate "pockets" that normally hold breast tissue, the implants were able to touch in the middle, said Dr. Steven Teitelbaum, a plastic surgeon in Los Angeles who did Rodriguez's reconstructive surgery.
"I had to create two entirely new pockets beneath the muscles to fix it," he told ABCnews.com. "[The first surgeon], violated many basic rules of the way breast implants are done. [The surgeon] cut across muscles you should never cut across," he said.