I want to cancel my rhinoplasty but my doctor's policy says I cannot get a refund. What can I do?

I just went home my stomach sunk and I realized I was very unsure I was making the right descion, I called my doctors office within hours of leaving today asking if I could cancel the surgery until I felt ready. They said there was no refunds after the payment was processed. What can I do? I'm a nervous wreck and I don't think I can handle the surgery, nor feel secure with all the payments. Any advice?

Doctor Answers 10

I want to cancel my rhinoplasty but my doctor's policy says I cannot get a refund.

Dear vanessaxvanity, In my office I simply charge the patient the small percentage that was taken out approximately 3.0% if they paid by credit card and refund their money so I am not out of pocket the credit card fees. If they paid by check then I refund their money in full. My contract states that the 20% deposit is non refundable however I certainly do not want to operate on any patient who is not ready to have surgery and is uncomfortable with their decision. I always return the patients money or on occasions patients will leave the money on account and give themselves sometime. I would speak with an office manager especially if you just scheduled the surgery and the operating room was not even set up or staffed yet for you it seems unreasonable to me however every surgeon has their own code of ethics and policies. Best regards, Michael V. Elam, M.D.

Orange County Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 196 reviews

Read this right now, because there may be something you can do if you do it today.

There are different fees that plastic surgeons get paid for elective surgery. There may be a fee for "scheduling," putting you on the calendar, that is much less than the price of surgery, and that fee often goes toward the price of surgery. It's usually not refundable.

Then, when you pay for the surgery, many surgeons have a policy that if you cancel surgery, not for a medical reason, the doctor's written policies might say that he keeps a percentage of the fee. The reason that doctors do that, is so that if you cancel the day before surgery, the doctor now doesn't have anything to do the next day, and it's too soon to put someone else on his calendar. Usually, that provision will say that the office will keep a percentage of the total fee if you cancel **within X weeks of surgery.** So, if you cancel three months before surgery, they should refund everything, because three months is plenty of time for them to replace you on the calendar. Replacing you on their surgical calendar is the entire issue.

Some doctors, I guess, will keep 100% of the fee if you cancel, but that seems excessive to me.
And more: if you just arranged for surgery yesterday, and on that same day you want to cancel, and they won't refund your money 100%, that's gross, because if you just scheduled your surgery yesterday, cancelling you is not an inconvenience to them: it's not like you were on a booked-up schedule for months, and cancelled the day before surgery.

Here's what you can do now. If the office did not inform you, in writing, of the policy that they keep your money if you cancel, I don't believe they can legally keep it. Did you sign papers when you paid? Was it mentioned on the papers? Did they tell you about that provision and point it out to you when you signed?

Then, even if they did inform you, in writing, and you signed the papers, I believe most states have laws that allow you to change your mind within a day of making a purchase. That's why the airlines now let you know that if you make and pay for a reservation, you can cancel your reservation and get all your money refunded if you cancel within a day. That law extends to other consumer fees paid as well.

In either event, the office has already told you that they won't refund your money, so you must get help. Call your state's consumer protection office, and ask what help they can provide. They will let you know your rights--whether you should be allowed to cancel within a day, or a week even, or whatever those rights are.

If you live in New Jersey and the surgeon is in New York State, you could call the consumer protection office for both states, so if you get an unhelpful response from one and a helpful response from the other, you know what to do.

Then you can call the doctor's office right away, tell them that you have contacted the consumer protection agency, and that the office must refund your money, putting them on notice before any time limit for your protection expires. Don't tell the office in detail what the consumer people told you. Let them imagine it.

If you get no help from the consumer protection people, call the office anyway, tell them that there was nothing in writing saying you didn't get your money back. Or, if there was something in writing, tell them that they didn't tell you about it and direct your attention to it before you signed, so you shouldn't be held to it.

Also, for you to know, not to mention to the office, is that even if they told you, and you signed, a judge might consider the provision unreasonable and ignore it and award you your money back. You might have to contact an attorney, but that's for later, depending on how much money it was. And you would want an attorney who views it as a simple case, so he'll take it on contingency, charging you only a percentage of the refund. Don't ever hire an attorney for something like this NOT on contingency.

And write back and let us know what happens. You may also email me with more details if you wish. I don't guarantee I can be of any further help, though.

Steven M. Denenberg, MD
Omaha Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

If you're having second thoughts about proceeding with rhinoplasty surgery, it may be best to hold off.

When it comes to rhinoplasty surgery, it is important to feel confident moving forward. Your prospective surgeon should not charge you for services that were not performed, so do not feel pressured at all to move forward, if you're not ready.

After making a commitment and setting a date for surgery, when patients change there mind about moving forward, they are refunded their entire fee minus $250. 
Hope this helps you, and wishing you well.

Dr Joseph

Eric M. Joseph, MD
West Orange Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 386 reviews


Hello and thank you for your question.  Most reputable surgeons would never want to pressure a patient into having surgery when they are not fully decided that it is what they truly want.  In my office, we offer a 100% full refund in this scenario.  A happy patient is more important to most board-certified plastic surgeons.  I recommend that you speak directly with your surgeon via phone, email or in person.  Sometimes there is miscommunication when dealing with the office staff/office manager and your surgeon may not even be aware of the problem and can likely help you obtain a refund.

Best wishes and good luck

Richard G. Reish, M.D.
Harvard-trained Plastic Surgeon

Richard G. Reish, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 67 reviews


Thank you for your question, vanessaxvanity. You should be able to receive a refund on your deposit/payment. A surgeon should honor the patients' decisions. The health, safety and happiness of the patient is of the utmost concern of surgeons. I am very sorry to hear of this negative experience.

Best wishes,

Ross A. Clevens, MD
Melbourne Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 93 reviews

Refund on rhinoplasty payment

Most plastic surgeons have a policy for when patients have to pay for their elective cosmetic surgery. There is usually a statement about refunds as well. If you have changed your mind about going ahead with your surgery then speak directly to your doctor about this issue.

Thomas Romo, III, MD, FACS
Manhattan Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 48 reviews


You should call the office and explain your reasons for wanting to cancel. Most offices will work the patients when issues like this come up. Good luck!

No refunds?

Office policies vary, but I would imagine you had several forms to fill out at the beginning of your initial consultation. In reading those forms it was probably very clear to the details of the refund policy. If not in those papers, then on your surgical quote which also was likely signed by you. 
Unfortunately, you may not have many options short of attempting mediation or otherwise. 
Good luck. 

Refund after payment

Thanks for your question. Check the financial policy of the office as set forth in the paperwork you received. There is no set rule regarding this. Most offices charge a booking fee and do not refund it after a certain time. However, that should have been stated in writing or explained to you before you made your payment.
Good luck!

Brian Widenhouse, MD
Charleston Plastic Surgeon
4.1 out of 5 stars 36 reviews

Cancelling vs postponing a rhinoplasty

Unfortunately, once you have signed a contract, the outcome is binding.  Many physicians have different policies with regards to cancelling or postponing a surgery.  If there wasn't this policy, then the operating room schedule is booked and the entire operating room staff does not get paid.  If you are planning on rescheduling in the future, then you have already paid for it.  If not, and you are postponing indefinitely, then the only option is to plead with the physician to break your legally-binding contract.

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.