All surgery carries an inherent risk, whether it’s elective or not. However, when the cause of a botched cosmetic or reconstructive surgery is clearly due to negligence by medical staff, the patient can pursue a medical malpractice claim.
This is according to Kirstie Haslam, partner at DSC Attorneys, who says that whether it is cosmetic or reconstructive when plastic surgery goes wrong, it can end up leaving scars and deformities that negatively affect patients for the rest of their lives.
Haslam said that there have been a number of successful claims against plastic surgeons in South Africa.
Some of the most notable cases include:
- Plastic surgeon, Dr Hennie Roos, faced 26 complaints between 1994 and 1998. One complainant was awarded R692,000 after a face and forehead lift performed by Dr Roos resulted in bad scarring;
- It was alleged that Dr Jan van Almenkerk failed to react in a reasonable manner when she became ill after the procedure, despite concerns being raised by her family members. The doctor was found guilty of culpable homicide and fined R240,000;
- Along with hundreds of thousands of women around the world, as many as 300 South African women were affected after plastic surgeons performed their breast augmentations using defective silicone breast implants, supplied by French company, Poly Implant Prothèse (PIP). The implants leaked and, even worse, were found to contain industrial-grade mattress silicone – a potential carcinogen, Haslam said.
Types of plastic surgery complications that can be grounds for a claim
If plastic surgery does not go according to plan, these are some of the complications or injuries that Haslam says could be grounds for pursuing a medical malpractice claim:
- Infection caused by the surgery or procedure;
- Scarring caused by the surgery;
- Complications from the anaesthesia;
- Nerve damage or loss of mobility;
Haslam said out that medical malpractice claims can be against the doctor who performed the procedure, other medical professionals who assisted or even the hospital or medical facility. For a claim to be successful, negligence needs to be proven.
“This can take the form of errors during diagnosis or treatment, clerical errors resulting in improper treatment, poor health management before, during and after the procedure, early discharge or failure to get informed consent from the patient, to name just a few,” she said. .
“If you believe you have grounds for a medical negligence claim, you have the right to look at your own medical records, charts and information in order to build your case.
“Medical malpractice cases can be lengthy and arduous, so it’s important to make sure you have a strong case and sufficient legal representation and support,” she said.