Plastic Surgery Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

More than eight out of 10 plastic surgeons have been sued for medical malpractice, according to a recent examination of medical malpractice lawsuits. A different report sheds even more light on plastic surgery medical malpractice claims.

Medscape, an online medical publication, last month released its study of medical malpractice lawsuits, which included some 4,300 physicians in 29 specialties.  “Medscape Malpractice Report 2021” revealed the medical specialties sued most often practiced in:

  • Plastic surgery
  • General surgery
  • Orthopedics
  • Urology
  • OB/GYN
  • Specialized surgery
  • Emergency medicine
  • Otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat specialists)
  • Radiology

Notably, 83% of plastic surgeons reported being sued for malpractice, a number very similar to that for general surgeons.

In October, The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurance provider, released a report on plastic surgery medical malpractice claims.  The report, “The Malpractice Experience of Plastic Surgeons 2015 - 2018: Setting Realistic Expectations May Mitigate Risk of Claims,” details findings of the insurer’s review of 415 plastic surgery medical malpractice claims over a four-year period.

Patient Harm in Plastic Surgery Medical Malpractice Claims

The report listed the patient injuries involved in the medical malpractice allegations; more than 60 different types in all.  Emotional trauma was the most common harm, followed by the need for additional surgeries.  Other serious injuries included:

  • Patient death
  • Burns
  • Nerve damage

The two most common plastic surgery procedures in the over 400 medical malpractice lawsuits were:

  • Breast implants
  • Face lifts

Types of Surgical Errors

The review of plastic surgery medical malpractice lawsuits found patient harm commonly found in other surgical error allegations, such as:

  • Surgical device left in patient
  • Surgical site infection

Three-quarters of the medical malpractice claims alleged errors by the surgeon or surgical team.

Improper Performance of Surgery

Specifically, 44% of the lawsuits alleged “improper performance of surgery” and 31% claimed “improper management of the surgical patient.” The latter resulted in harm to the patient from an error during the surgery, such as operating on the wrong part of the patient’s body, and/or from post-op complications, such as a surgical site infection.

The report found that communication issues were a contributing factor.  Poor communication is a frequent cause in medical malpractice lawsuits in general, but the report found them more frequently in plastic surgery claims.

In previous reports, The Doctor Company found communications issues in 28% of medical malpractice lawsuits involving medical providers, 26% involving OB/GYNs, and 17% involving emergency room physicians.  This latest report documented allegations of poor communications in 38% of the plastic surgery medical malpractice claims.

Another contributing factor was problematic patient assessments, such as a patient suffering harm when a diagnostic test was not ordered or delayed.

While plastic surgery is considered “elective,” patients should receive the standard level of care. When medical errors are made during plastic surgery – or any other procedure - patients are at risk for severe, life-altering harm that may have been preventable.

If you believe you or a family member was a victim of a serious error during or after surgery, contact a personal injury lawyer about your legal rights.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Blog January 28, 2022


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