Cosmetic Surgery Deaths Concern Healthcare Advocates

In the last decade from 2000 to 2010, 32 Floridians have died shortly after undergoing cosmetic surgery. Approximately the same number of deaths occurred during the 1990s, which lead the state Board of Medicine to pass restrictions on cosmetic procedures. In addition to the high number of deaths, 131 people were hospitalized due to complications.

The causes of death range from poor medical care to unavoidable complications. The Sun Sentinel reported that while the medical board tracks surgery deaths and complications, no patterns have emerged. Board members have stated that without identifiable trends, there is no need to further change rules or restrictions.

But healthcare advocates, Florida medical malpractice attorneys, and industry experts argue that changes need to be made. Cosmetic surgery related deaths were first addressed by the medical board in 1999. Many of these deaths were related to long procedures done in a doctor’s office rather than a hospital. This lead to required inspections of physician surgery offices, limits on operation times and liposuction and a ban on overnight office stays.

Demand for cosmetic surgery has grown nation-wide with the number of procedures done across America doubling from the 2000 numbers to 13.1 million. In Florida, the number of doctor’s offices registered to perform surgery has grown from 285 in 2004 to over 400 today.

Even some cosmetic surgeons are concerned about certain safety issues. Doctors are permitted to perform minor procedures in their unregulated offices as long as local anesthesia is used. Almost half of the deaths and one third of the hospitalizations were related to liposuction. Because it is not called an invasive procedure, unregulated offices can perform it. Anesthesia is another issue involved in the majority of the deaths and complications, especially when surgeons are not aided by an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist.

Many of the issues may come from efforts to keep down costs. By performing in an unregulated setting and reducing costs with anesthesiology, cosmetic surgeons can offer cheaper procedures. As a medical malpractice lawyer in Tampa, I know that cheaper is not always better and cutting corners can have serious and permanent consequences.


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