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Informed consent key to minimizing litigation risk

Article-Informed consent key to minimizing litigation risk

As with most procedures, cosmetic or otherwise, facial dermabrasion and chemical peels are generally safe, but they're not without risk — and, thus, not without litigation. Results of a recent study, however, suggest how potential litigation can be minimized.

A research team led by Peter F. Svider, M.D., of the Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, analyzed 25 lawsuits involving facial dermabrasion and chemical peel. They focused on factors such as allegations raised, patient demographics, defendant specialties, final outcomes and payments.

Researchers found that 16 cases were decided for the defendant, while nine were resolved with payments to the plaintiff. The median difference between out-of-court settlements (median, $940 000) and jury-awarded damages (median, $535 000) was not statistically significant. Factors commonly raised in litigation included:

  • Poor cosmetic outcome (80 percent)
  • Intra-treatment negligence (68 percent)
  • Permanent injury (64 percent)
  • Informed-consent deficits (60 percent)
  • Emotional/psychological injury (44 percent)
  • Post-treatment negligence (32 percent)
  • Need for additional treatment/surgery (32 percent)

The authors write that their findings “emphasize the need for physicians to thoroughly document potential complications prior to treatment, during the informed-consent process. Additionally, general considerations should be taken into account, such as patient expectations and the potential need for other procedures, which may enhance pre-treatment communication and ultimately minimize liability.”

To Dr. Svider, the study confirms the key role a sound informed-consent process plays in minimizing liability.

“The majority of litigation related to these procedures included plaintiff allegations of inadequate informed consent,” he tells Cosmetic Surgery Times. “These findings greatly reinforce the importance of taking the time to sit down and actively participate in a comprehensive pre-operative informed-consent process that includes both specific risks, like the ones we report, as well as more general considerations such as a potential need to undergo additional procedures should there be an unsatisfactory result. This analysis also emphasizes that as physicians, we are still held liable for procedures performed by ancillary staff.”

The study was published online in Aesthetic Surgery Journal.

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