I receive many calls from women who have breast reduction or augmentation surgery who are unhappy with their results. The same is true for women who have abdominoplasty procedures, also known as 'Tummy Tucks'. The complaints are strikingly the same:
"I don't like the way my surgery came out," "The doctor stitched me up too tightly," "I was in the hospital too long," "My wound got infected," "I wanted to be a B cup, but now I'm a C cup," "My breasts are still uneven," "My scars are prominent, and I can't wear a bikini," "The doctor didn't center my nipple when he did my breast surgery."
The real question that a New York medical malpractice lawyer needs to evaluate is whether these problems stem from improper medical care. In elective plastic surgery cases many women do not realize that just because they did not get an optimal or ideal result does not necessarily mean that there was malpractice.
Another important issue is that there is something called 'medical judgment' when doing elective plastic surgery. One doctor may use one type of suture material, and another doctor may use a different material. As long as each method is medically acceptable, the fact that one chose to use a certain type of suture material over another is a judgment call, and that choice is generally not considered malpractice.
Let's look at wound infections. Wound infections can unfortunately happen even in the best of care, and the fact that a woman develops a post-operative wound infection, again, does not instantly mean there was wrongdoing.
Most patients who have breast reduction or augmentation surgery want to improve their looks. They believe plastic surgery is the way to accomplish this. The reality is that no plastic surgeon will ever guarantee a result. "I've done thousands of breast surgeries...don't worry about a thing," the famous Park Avenue plastic surgeon said to a patient during her consultation. What he didn't tell her was that there are risks to every surgical procedure. Had she known about those risks, she never would have had the surgery.
There are many women who have revision surgery to minimize their scars. Others have their implants replaced for different sizes. The tummy tuck that was sutured too tightly may need to be surgically opened and loosened. Those patients who have revisions are sometimes given 'freebies' by the surgeon. In other words, he (or she) will not charge for a repeat or corrective surgery. I receive some calls from women who are furious that they need revision surgery and their surgeon still wants to charge them $10,000, $15,000 or even $20,000 cash. (Remember, insurance doesn't usually pay for elective plastic surgery.)
I am often asked to look at the horrible result a plastic surgeon caused. Some photos show terrible looking scars. The nipple may be off-center. The scarring may be keloid and raised. It may be a fresh scar and not have had time to heal yet.
Here's why a plastic surgery victim calls a lawyer's office to ask if they have a valid medical malpractice case:
They see themselves as disfigured following a costly and time-consuming surgical procedure. They went into this expecting to be made more beautiful than they were. When they come out worse than they expected they get upset. When the patient confronts her fears and concerns with the doctor, the doctors' response will usually determine whether I get called. Typically, these women are at first ashamed that a respected doctor could give them such a terrible result. The feelings of shame turn to anger after talking to friends and family about her predicament. The inability to wear sexy revealing clothes certainly creates frustration. A caring physician may appear cold-hearted when he (or she) fails to take the patient's concerns seriously. Here's the kicker that always generates a call to the lawyer's office...
The doctor refuses to do a revision surgery unless the patient pays full price, in cash, before the surgery.
In order to properly evaluate a potential case I need to obtain and review all of your medical records. I need to have an expert plastic surgeon review and comment on your treatment. Only if my expert confirms that (1) there were departures from good care that (2) caused you injury and (3) that the injury is significant and permanent, are we permitted to go forward and prosecute a case on your behalf.
If any one of those three elements noted above are missing, then it becomes impossible to prove a successful case. The first step to evaluating your possible case is to speak to an experienced New York medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. By obtaining as much information as you can, you become a better informed consumer and learn the process of how a lawyer chooses to accept a case.
Gerry Oginski is an experienced medical malpractice and personal injury trial attorney practicing law in Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, New York, Staten Island, Nassau & Suffolk. He has tirelessly represented injured victims in all types of medical malpractice and injury cases for over 19 years. As a solo practitioner he is able to devote 100% of his time to each individual client. A client is never a file number in his office.
After reading this article, go over to http://medicalmalpracticetutorial.blogspot.com for Gerry's free instructional video tips on malpractice & accident law.