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Don't take chances when it comes to cosmetic surgery

Making the decision to go under the knife to improve your looks is a big step. Many people research to find the best doctor at a price point that they can afford. But for one woman, choosing a board certified doctor was not enough. What she didn't realize is that the doctor she chose was certified in otolaryngology -- ear, nose and throat, not plastic surgery. The result is now a possible medical malpractice case against the doctor for a less than ideal outcome -- thick scars on her temples and a wavy abdomen.

A recent trend is that more doctors, regardless of specialty, are expanding their practices to include lucrative cosmetic procedures that are typically paid for out-of-pocket by patients. It's not uncommon to find a gynecologist offering breast augmentation, ophthalmologists doing liposuction or other doctors giving Botox injections. The result in some instances is a large number of patients who aren't happy with the results.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons believes that people need to be protected from doctors who aren't upfront about their board certifications. Every patient should know what a doctor's specialty is and whether they've recently added a board certification in plastic surgery.

According to the American Board of Medical Specialties, approximately 80 percent of licensed doctors get a specialty certification by one of 24 boards. This typically requires a minimum of a three year residency in the chosen area, plus extensive oral and written examinations.

On the down side for patients, there are no laws in the United States that require doctors to practice only within the fields that they were trained in. There are no records on how many doctors practice outside their specialty since there is no oversight authority in place to do that. So, when a patient does experience a complication, the doctor is not required to report it.

So if you are thinking of having cosmetic surgery, your best bet is to proceed with caution. If you experience medical malpractice, you need to speak with a qualified attorney that specializes in this area. They understand the consequences of your case and will pursue answers and work with you to build a case that will benefit you.

Source: The New York Times, "Ear Doctors Performing Face-Lifts? It Happens," Kate Murphy, Jan. 30, 2012

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