Is There a Need for Government Regulation with “Cosmetic Surgeons”?

Is There a Need for Government Regulation with “Cosmetic Surgeons”?

Yet more patients seeking plastic surgery have met death on the operating table in the hands of a non-qualified “cosmetic surgeon.” The Fresno Bee reports that Dr. Robert Alan Yoho “cannot practice medicine from Nov. 19 through Dec. 16 under the disciplinary order by the Medical Board of California.” Two patients out of 4 did not survive surgery, situations the state medical board dubbed “gross negligence and incompetence.” Why are patients dying in the OR for seemingly innocuous cosmetic procedures?

Board certified plastic surgeons – the ones properly trained and certified to perform surgery – typically known the answer before it’s mentioned: unqualified practitioners. On the latest episode of No Spin Live, board certified plastic surgeons discuss the case of Dr. Yoho and whether or not state governments should more regulate who can perform these procedures.

Dr. Yoho – “Board Certified in Cosmetic Surgery”

The same sad tale seems to repeat itself monthly. A non-board certified plastic surgeon – and usually physician’s who have little to no surgical training period – offer cosmetic surgery, face complications during, and their patients pay the ultimate price. It’s certainly not fair to blame all complications on the surgeon; complications happen even with the best hands in the best ORs. What’s extremely important is those hands know what to do when complications arise. Breast augmentation may seem straightforward and “easy,” but beyond the artistic skill involved, the skills surgeons hone for over a decade may or may not be in use – the skills that can respond immediately to result and even life-threatening complicatons.

“There are really two stories here,” says board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Kevin Smith of Charlotte. “1, the fact that this guy calls himself a plastic surgeon and is in actuality not. And the other, we as plastic surgeons, even in the best of hands, can have complications. Plastic surgery is something that needs to be taken seriously.”

Dr. Yoho has come under fire as a “cosmetic surgeon” with next to no surgical training. His board certification, as it turns out, is in emergency medicine, not plastic surgery.

“In this case, Dr. Yoho is a fellow who is board certified in emergency medicine,” shares Smith. “He had a year of internal medicine internship, he had a year of dermatology, and two years of emergency medicine. Never has he done a surgical residency, yet this guy says he’s board certified in cosmetic surgery. He’s doing aesthetic surgery for patients and the outcomes are not good.”

Perhaps surprisingly to some, this situation is not all that uncommon. There are very loose regulations in place that dictate who and who cannot perform surgeries. Additionally, the ability to market and advertise on the internet is really the Wild West – anyone can say anything and host it on a website.

This situation can be troubling for patients seeking the right surgeons, but it’s up to them to put in the time and energy required to find the right surgeon. After all, surgery is dangerous no matter what is being performed. The only guarantee a patient has is the skill and abilities of their surgeon of choice.

“People need to do their due diligence and make a good deal of effort to find out if these guys are actually board certified, where they have their privileges, and some history behind them,” says Smith.

Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jason Pozner of Florida has discussed this very topic numerous times on No Spin Live. Sadly, it seems to continue to occur. He sees much of it as physicians who want to do what plastic surgeons do, but don’t want to put in the effort and immense time to takes to get there. “We go through a lot of hoops to become board certified plastic surgeons to do these procedures,” he explains. “A lot of people are nipping at our feet because they want to be us without the training. Again, it’s up to the patients to do their homework and go to board certified plastic surgeons for plastic surgery.”

State and National Boards – Should They Regulate More?

There doesn’t seem to be a great answer to the issue. While state and national licensing boards surely do not want a negative perception of the hard work they perform to certify surgeons, there is immense legislative work that not many are willing to undertake. Many, however, believe that maybe they should be trying.

Public perception is really the heart of the issue, as they have no regulatory guidance when it comes to seeking out surgeons. Anybody can make a website and put all kinds of words up that sound good, but could be entirely fabricated. The low cost usually piques their interest more than if Dr. X has extensive experience in Y procedure, is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and has hospital privileges locally.

“There’s a huge problem with public perception,” further explains board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jason Cooper. “Who is protecting whom, what our boards’ responsibility is to get involved with the legislators to basically abolish this stuff… It’s like, will the real board member please stand up? The public doesn’t know because these people are saying they’re board certified in cosmetic surgery. So the public goes out there, they think they’re going to see a board certified plastic surgeon, and they don’t even know who the real person is and who they should go see.”

While due diligence is preached often by surgeons of The Plastic Surgery Channel, it’s not always an easy task. Patients can easily and readily be hoodwinked by slick marketing and websites. The fact that physicians aren’t qualified doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad people – perhaps they are very welcoming and warm to patients, further masking their technical inexperience with great interaction.

Finding and selecting the right surgeon is a difficult and sometimes long road. While some believe it would be better if it were easier, perhaps a long road is just the kind of journey a would-be patient needs to truly realize, understand and appreciate the surgical goals they’re after.

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