According to an article published in the New York Times, ear doctors are performing face lifts. The Times reported the case of Joan, now 59, who after moving from New York to Los Angeles in 2010, believed she needed to freshen her look. As a result, she got a face-lift and a tummy tuck from a board-certified doctor in Beverly Hills.
Joan did not realize that the doctor’s certification was in otolaryngology – ear, nose and throat – not plastic surgery. The outcome was less than ideal: thick scars on her temples and a wavy abdomen. Joan used all of her savings to have a qualified plastic surgeon repair the previous work. It has become apparent that Joan’s case is not the only one and similar situations are occurring across the nation.
The article reported that with declining insurance reimbursements, more doctors, regardless of specialty, are expanding their practices to include cosmetic procedures paid for out of pocket by patients. It is now common to find gynecologists offering breast augmentation, ophthalmologists performing liposuction, and family practice physicians giving Botox injections.
“The public needs to be protected from doctors who are not upfront about what board certifications they have,” said Dr. Malcolm Z. Roth, chief of plastic surgery at the Albany Medical Center in Albany and president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The Times reported that members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons claim that there has been a surge in patients requesting revisionary surgery – operations to undo damage caused by botched procedures. “I’m seeing cases like this on a weekly basis now, when a few years ago I hardly saw any,” said Dr. Patti Flint, a plastic surgeon in Mesa, Arizona.
There are no existing laws in the United States requiring doctors to practice only within the specialty field(s) in which they were trained. Only Texas, California, Louisiana, and Florida mandate that doctors be specific in their advertising about which specialty board certifications that they have; elsewhere they may simply say that they are “board-certified.”
It is unknown how many doctors are practicing outside their specialty; they do not have to report to any oversight authority that they are doing so. Nor are doctors performing cosmetic procedures required to report complications. The patient must, therefore do their homework before agreeing to surgery.