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Is your cosmetic surgeon adequately insured?

For anyone planning to undergo cosmetic surgery, whether in the UK or abroad, there are always risks attached, from complications arising from post-operative infections, to pain and problems with healing wounds. However, if you’re considering going abroad for your plastic surgery operation, it is important to do lots of research as standards and guidelines vary from country to country. 

Medical Tourism is a growing trend, with increasing numbers of people choosing to travel abroad for cosmetic surgery procedures such as breast augmentation, abdominoplasty (tummy tucks), weight loss surgery and face lifts. Popular destinations for plastic surgery include Turkey, Russia, Italy and France. But what are the added risks involved? 

The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) is a good website to visit for advice before you go abroad for cosmetic surgery. Their advice includes ensuing that:

  • surgeons and staff have extensive training in all areas of surgical and nonsurgical procedures
  • they are members of a recognised national and international plastic surgery society
  • staff speak fluent English
  • the surgical setting is accredited/certified 

As lawyers, our key piece of advice is to ensure that your surgeon is fully insured. This might not be something you’ve given much thought to before. In the UK we take it for granted that surgery performed on the NHS is fully insured, meaning that we’ll be compensated for any mistakes made by surgeons and other members of staff. Where surgery is performed on a private basis (as is usually the case with cosmetic surgery) it is the responsibility of the surgeon himself to arrange insurance cover. 

Sara Westwood, a specialist medical negligence solicitor, recently concluded a case where her client had surgery at a well-known cosmetic surgery chain of hospitals based in the UK but whose surgeon travelled from Italy to carry out the procedure. Her client suffered a post-operative infection which was poorly managed with the result she underwent numerous further and avoidable surgical procedures. 

The claim was made against both the surgeon and the hospital for breach of contract. “The surgeon deliberately chose to be uncooperative during the case which resulted in her client securing judgment against him”. Explains Sara. “After some pressing the hospital eventually provided us with the surgeon’s insurance details. As an Italian national it transpired that the insurance policy was taken out in Italy and subject to Italian jurisdiction. The judgment my client obtained in England was therefore meaningless.” 

To pursue the surgeon further would have involved litigating in Italy which would be costly, impractical and with no guarantee of an outcome. In reality the surgeon’s insurance wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Something that Sara suspected the surgeon and the hospital were aware of. 

The hospital eventually settled the case but only after months of procrastination. What is particularly shocking about this case is that the hospital was not properly insured for the claim. Eventually, and only after a significant delay, compensation money was recovered. 

Whilst the matter of insurance might not be your immediate concern when embarking on cosmetic surgery, it is important to enquire what insurance is in place before deciding to go ahead. We would recommend getting this information in writing beforehand, so that should something go wrong, you’ve got the information you need at your fingertips. 

by Sara Westwood at sarawestwood@m-j-p.co.uk

 

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