Many of my patients have been asking me a lot of questions about the recent incident of an overseas plastic surgeon being arrested for practicing medicine without a license in New York. I thought it would be helpful to explain why if a surgery is done in another country, it is illegal for a doctor to do even a consult here in New York. Let me be clear in stating that there is nothing wrong with having surgery overseas, provided you are completely aware of the risks, potential extra costs, and your rights as a patient.
Even if you are the world’s best plastic surgeon, you need to be licensed in the US to practice here. Practicing means doing a consult, free or not, talking to a patient, evaluating them for surgery, or discussing surgery to be done in another country. This is practicing medicine without a license, which is punishable by years in prison The laws are in place to protect you the patient, as without a license, the state cannot confirm the training, safety, and expertise of the doctor, and he has not shown himself to be qualified to practice in the US. It also makes it much more difficult to seek damages for errors in care.
Be aware that if your doctor says he comes to the US often and will treat you when he comes in, that this is against the law. When the doctor comes here and does injections, minor revisions, liposuction or other touch up procedures, he is also breaking the law and putting your health at risk. An apartment or a spa or salon is not the appropriate place to treat patients even if you do have a license.
To be a great doctor, especially a great plastic surgeon, you need good judgment. This means being honest with your patients, putting your patients’ interests ahead of your own, and following the rules of safety and good practice. I live by those words, and so should your doctor.
When considering going overseas for plastic surgery, using the surgical fee as the only factor in making your decision is often a mistake, and in order to make a fair comparison, you need to know what you are getting for your money. Aside from the cost of travel, staying in another country, loss of time from work, there are serious safety considerations. Below you will find some helpful questions to consider when thinking about overseas surgery.
Any plastic surgeon can have complications, even if they do everything properly. If this happens to you overseas, what is the emergency plan? Do you have insurance there if you need to be hospitalized? Can you even get to a qualified hospital quickly enough? Can you pay those fees which are often due before they even will put you in an ambulance? Does the nearby hospital have the medications or equipment needed to save your life? Can you afford to stay longer, potentially missing work, needing someone to watch your children? If you have a problem later, can you afford to take off more time, pay your additional flight and hotel so your doctor can help you? Can you afford the costs of a doctor here to fix the issue, if he will see you at all?
What sort of training did your doctor have? Does he belong to any national or international societies? How many years have they been in private practice? Have they ever had a death in the facility, or transported a patient to the hospital emergently? Are the implants or other devices they use approved by the FDA for use in the US?
The best way to stay safe is to be educated. I hope this helps.