Do You Have Financial Recourse with a Surgeon Who Does Poor Surgery?

If you have had surgery from a plastic surgeon (blepharoplasty) that has left you with problems-(droopy eyelids and eye bags still visible) that an oculoplasty surgeon says will need revision surgery. Do you have the right (legal or ethical) to expect the surgeon to refund the cost of his botched surgery, (or at least part), to help pay for the revision surgery?

Doctor Answers 5

Poor Surgery

Medicolegal questions are often thoughtful, but it is always best to try and work out the situation with your past & present doctor.  Please remember that physicians are in the "Trying To Help" others profession and want the best for their patients.

San Diego Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 reviews

Who to address..

As an Oculofacial plastic surgeon who specializes in revision surgery this question comes to me fairly often. In general I don’t involve myself in the relationship an individual has with their prior surgeon. It’s been my observation is in most cases an issue of related to the communication between the person who had the complication or the less than optimal result and the prior surgeon or surgeons. In times of legal obligation this question is best addressed to an attorney.
It is important for anyone who undergoes any surgery but in particular cosmetic surgery to realize that complications can occur even in the best of hands and that in my opinion the surgeon who operated on someone understands when is the appropriate time to refer them to a more experience specialist or if they have the level of training experience for them to able to handle the issue themselves. In my experience issues of resentment to prior surgeons occur when the patient and the surgeon disagree on the appearance and the surgeon fails to communicate adequately the perception of the actual problem as well as the need to additional surgery.

Amiya Prasad, MD
New York Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.3 out of 5 stars 69 reviews

Financial recourse for a surgeon who does poor surgery?

The  short answer is no you do not have financial recourse for a bad result following plastic surgery. It is for that reason that you need do your homework and find the best possible

 Here is the reason: the majority of Plastic Surgeons only guarantee their best surgical effort and experience to give you the best results they are capable of but they do NOT Guarantee a final result. Guarantees that you will be happy with the results, and that there will not be any problems afterwards is being unrealistic.
Plastic Surgery is an inexact science and art form. For example it is not like carpentry where you can measure and make a piece of furniture over and over exactly the same both immediately after you finish and in the future. All surgery has risks which the surgeon may not be able to alter. You as a patient need to understand, and it is the plastic surgeon's responsibility to make you aware of the risks associated with this procedure. This is called "informed consent". Most plastic surgeons (all surgeons for that matter) would agree that that it is important for the patient to understand that what they are paying for is  the best possible effort using all of their skill and experience to achieve your goals.There are no direct or implied guarantee of results as too many variables existbetween patients (such as loss of elasticity, underlying muscle imbalance, sun damage, prior trauma, smoker, anatomic variation, etc, etc).

All that being said, I think it wise to have a heart to heart talk with your plastic surgeon. In a few cases they may offer some sort of financial assistance. although not required to do so

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 154 reviews

Very complicated topic.

It is very hard to provide any type of opinion because we do not know anything about your situation including where you are after surgery.  A photo would be interesting.  It may well be that the oculoplastic surgeon is correct and you will need a revision.  However, there really is no guarantee that your surgeon will be able to provide surgery that is free of issues.  That is really what an informed consent is all about.  I would encourage you to talk with frankly and openly about your situation with your original surgeon.  Please recognize that not all unsatisfactory eyelid surgeries actually need reconstructive surgery.  Often time can be very helpful.  If something is egregious it may be below the standard of care.  However, a "poor" eyelid surgery result does not mean you are entitled to a refund or that your surgeon should pay for a revisional surgery.  Your current surgeon should be motivated to make things right if they agree that you may benefit from revisional surgery.  Keep these lines of communication open unless there has been a breakdown in your relationship. 

Kenneth D. Steinsapir, MD
Beverly Hills Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Difficult to answer...

This is a difficult question to answer. From a medicolegal standpoint, you would have to prove that his/her surgery technique and results were outside the community standard of care of other physicians in your area. In addition, you would have to prove that the consent obtained did not discuss potential risks of surgery.

As an Oculoplastic surgeon, I have had to treat patients with adverse outcomes of surgery. Most of these cases were done by very skillful and reputable surgeons. Unfortunately, every patient heals differently, and and every surgery involves risk.

Obviously you have the right to make a malpractice claim, but this would be a difficult case to prove, because what you are describing is not outside the norm of plastic surgery risks.

Personally my consent form for risks of blepharoplasty include but is not limited to : "bleeding, infection, loss of vision, dry eyes, droop eyelids, scarring, and need for further surgery which may incur additional cost".

Your surgeon may charge less for revision surgery if he feels the results were less than satisfactory, but he/she is under no obligation to do so.

Unfortunately surgery is not like buying a pair of shoes at Nordstrom. Just because you don't like the results, you don't get to return it and get your money back.

I do feel badly for you that your outcomes were not satisfactory!

Good luck

A.J. Amadi, MD
Seattle Oculoplastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 37 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.