For those who follow the cosmetic surgery industry, the wait for more comprehensive regulations can seem interminable. Meanwhile, although the percentage of patients suffering death during or soon after a procedure continues to be very small, it’s arguable that at least some of those deaths should not be happening.
Just a few months ago, the Virginia Board of Medicine failed to follow up on a suggestion from nine medical specialty groups, including the Virginia Society of Plastic Surgeons, to issue a “guidance document” covering cosmetic procedures. The nine groups urging this measure wanted the Board of Medicine to weigh in on who can perform which procedures in addition to where cosmetic procedures are performed. The specialty groups cited the fact that many physicians who offer cosmetic procedures, notably liposuction, have their formal training in another specialty. Without stricter regulations, it can be difficult for the average patient to wade through marketing ploys, evaluate the complicated credentials of a provider and make a sound decision with safety at the top of the priority list (Enns 1).
Just this past Sunday, an article published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel detailed 32 deaths that occurred soon after cosmetic surgery in the state during the last decade. What’s most disturbing about that number is that the death rate is about the same as in the previous decade, after the Florida Board of Medicine passed some of the toughest rules in the nation covering procedures performed in doctors’ offices (LaMendola and Kestin 1).
The article pointed out that there are various causes of the 32 deaths. Furthermore, the tremendous growth in the popularity of cosmetic surgery needs to be considered along with the rather consistent rate of death. More people of all kinds seek cosmetic surgery than ever—almost double the rate since 1997, when the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) first began tracking numbers (ASAPS 1).