Writers who specialize in plastic surgery often work to educate the public about the meaning of terms like “plastic surgeon” and “cosmetic surgeon.” But it doesn’t hurt to revisit the topic from time to time, especially when a patient suffers a poor outcome, or worse, loss of life, at the hands of a non-credentialed practitioner.
This is exactly what happened in 2007 in Toronto. The doctor in question, Benhaz Yasdanfar, is being sued by the family of a young woman who died after liposuction. The hearing has gone on for over a year now with no decision. But more to the point, what’s to stop a patient—in Canada or the U.S., where regulations are similar—from suffering at the hands of a relatively untrained physician in the future?
This question—to which the answer is “nothing”—is what troubles many with an interest in plastic surgery.
Oddly enough, in the field of medicine, where bureaucracy and red tape are abundant, the requirements for hanging up a sign in your practice saying “cosmetic surgery” are laughably few. Do you need to have spent time during your internship and residency doing a plastic surgery rotation? No. Do you need to have spent time performing any kind of surgery? No.
To be perfectly clear: any doctor with a current medical license can position himself or herself as a cosmetic surgeon. The term “cosmetic surgeon” means nothing more than the fact the doctor offers cosmetic procedures. General practitioners, gynecologists and dermatologists are among the physicians that add cosmetic procedures—usually breast surgery, tummy tucks and liposuction—to their repertoire to bolster the bottom line.
They may take a weekend course, a kind of internship or another type of training. And they may be able to handle routine cases without incident. But the potential problems that go hand in hand with minimal experience include:
• Cookie cutter approach to patients
• Inability to spot a surgical problem early on
• Lack of training to handle an emergency
• Lack of tools for emergencies, such as IV meds and crash carts
• Absence of hospital privileges