Let’s start off with a story–based on true occurrences….
The Risks Botched Plastic Surgery: Martha’s Story
At Discovery NP Legal Consultants, we believe in the power of narratives to bring to light the hard truths about medical malpractice, particularly within the realm of plastic surgery. The following is a real-life inspired account, portraying the high-risk stakes associated with botched procedures and the vital need for competent legal representation.
Martha had always been self-conscious of her body, and when she learned about the liposuction fat transfer procedure she thought it was the perfect way to improve her figure. After doing her research, she chose a facility that promised impressive results with a procedure they claimed had minimal downtime and “wasn’t cosmetic surgery” – but Martha was unaware that the provider was not qualified to perform invasive aesthetics procedures such as cosmetic surgery, and that the nature of the procedure was, in fact, invasive, had surgical risks, and should have been done by a surgeon under anesthesia. A hospital setting or outpatient surgical setting would have had the right resources present to recover her should something go horribly wrong. Martha had no way of knowing she was taking her life in her hands by simply wanting a simple aesthetic procedure.
During the elective surgery, the non-surgeon provider evidently botched sterile techniques and the standard of care was not met, causing surgical complications. Ignoring patient safety, Martha was sent home. Once home, Martha could feel herself becoming more and more uncomfortable due to the surgical error, but dismissed her discomfort thinking that it was part of the healing process. She was told over and over by the staff at the aesthetics facility to “just keep massaging the tender tissue.”
However, within a week, Martha noticed her skin turning red and swollen – a sign of deeply-seated infection. A few days later, her chest still bandaged from the surgery, she noticed an odorous drainage, so Martha skipped calling the facility–they were ignoring her anyway– and went instead to the hospital emergency department, where she was diagnosed with a severe infection called necrotizing fasciitis.
Necrotizing Fasciitis and Sepsis: A Life-Threatening Complication
Necrotizing fasciitis is a rare but serious bacterial infection that affects the tissue beneath the skin and surrounding muscles. If left untreated, it can cause rapid destruction of muscle and fat, leading to severe disability and even death. In Martha’s case, she was threatening sepsis.
Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition caused by an infection. When the body becomes overwhelmed with bacteria or other germs, our immune system goes into overdrive, releasing chemicals into the blood that can cause inflammation and damage organs. Preventable can be a cause of wrongful death if not treated quickly.
The Consequences of Botched Plastic Surgery
Due to the botched surgery causing necrotizing fasciitis, Martha had to undergo an emergency procedure called an incision and drainage (I&D), where the surgeon surgically drained the infectious pus from an incision, and applied a special vacuum device to the wound, called a “wound vac” to approximate the wound edges quickly and prevent further infection. The device required careful monitoring and skilled care for some time.
Martha quickly learned how expensive frequent hyperbaric chamber treatments are, which provide hyperoxygenation to the wound for healing. This was especially financially painful when missing work to attend the treatments. All-in-all, Martha’s experience was one that did not need to play out the way it did.
Not only did Martha experience the need to have a repair surgery that otherwise would not have been necessary; she would always have scars and irreparable disfigurement from the experience of the botched plastic surgery. Furthermore, she experienced significant psychological damages through traumatizing emotions during the whole ordeal that her psychiatrist opined could take many years of therapy to recover from.
Seeking Legal Assistance for Botched Plastic Surgery Cases
Martha decided to seek justice and, more importantly, to stop this from happening to other unsuspecting and trusting victims, so she hired an attorney to sue for medical malpractice. Her legal team uncovered evidence that proved that her provider was unqualified and had acted grossly negligently and failed to provide the standard of care needed for such a procedure – a violation of medical ethics.
When a cosmetic procedure is botched due to negligence from the surgeon or their team, the patient may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Trial attorneys are well aware that when filing such claims on behalf of the plaintiff, it is important to consider whether the defendant’s actions were in line with accepted standards of care. Medical records and witness testimonies (such as those present during the procedure or employees who can testify to the general way things are run at the facility) can be invaluable in this process, providing evidence of negligence and demonstrating how the plaintiff has suffered due to such negligence.
Plastic surgery is a medical specialty that covers both reconstructive and cosmetic surgeries. Reconstructive plastic surgery aims to restore form and function of the body, while cosmetic surgery is focused on enhancing appearance. Medical malpractice in plastic surgery can occur in either type of surgery if the patient experiences an injury or adverse outcome due to the negligence of the plastic surgeon or other provider. But reconstructive surgery is generally necessary to repair situations caused by malpractice or negligence in cosmetic surgery.
Examples of medical malpractice in plastic surgery include improperly performed procedures, failure to obtain informed consent, inappropriate post-surgical care, and inadequate follow-up visits.
The Importance of Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Cases
When proving medical malpractice, the standard of care must be considered. This is, of course, determined by looking at the skill and competence that a prudent and reasonable surgeon would have demonstrated in the same circumstances. If any errors were made pre-op or during surgery – such as administering the wrong anesthesia or performing incorrect procedures – then the standard of care has not been met.
Furthermore, a breach of the standard of care may arise if there is lack of training or experience on the part of the plastic surgeon/provider or staff, failure to obtain informed consent, or failure to obtain and review patient’s complete medical history. Any of these missteps could indicate that the plastic surgeon did not meet the expected standard of care, making the provider (and in some cases, the entities that hired incompetent staff knowingly) liable for medical negligence or medical malpractice.
Damages Caused by Botched Plastic Surgery
Victims of botched plastic surgery can suffer a wide range of damages, ranging from temporary infections to permanent paralysis and disfigurement up to and including wrongful death. These injuries can cause considerable financial losses due to time off work, medical expenses and lost earning capacity, and, in cases such as Marthas, sometimes psychological damages. In addition, victims experience ongoing physical pain and emotional trauma that often have lasting repercussions.
The Importance of Competent Legal Representation
As a medical malpractice attorney, your client deserves to receive the most competent legal representation possible in cases involving negligent or improper medical care. In order to thoroughly evaluate potential cases of plastic surgery malpractice, it is beneficial to consider hiring a legal nurse consultant or a Nurse Practitioner Medical Legal Consultant (NP-MLC) who specializes in plastic surgery or surgical services.
The right nurse consultant can provide insight into the standard of care applicable to plastic surgery procedures. A legal nurse consultant, or Nurse Practitioner Medical Legal Consultant (NP-MLC) can review the records to collect any and all evidence of negligence or malpractice. A competent consultant will compare/contrast the pre- and post-op imaging, pre-op notes and history, op-report, scrutinize the elements of the informed consent, review the nursing assessment, peri-operative nursing notes and any and all notifications of providers to see where the ball was dropped.
Such an evaluation can help identify any areas where the standard of care was not met, identify (or exhonorate) potential defendants, and strengthen your firm’s case against the offending party.
By teaming up with a legal nurse consultant or a Nurse Practitioner Medical Legal Consultant (NP-MLC), you can improve your client’s chances at recovering due damages caused by medical malpractice or medical negligence in a plastic surgery case. Contact us today for more information.