Phony Doctors, Illegal Drugs, Botched Procedures

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American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Issues Guidelines for Patients

New York, NY (July 25, 2002) — News reports about phony doctors arrested in New York after their cosmetic procedures caused disfigurement may represent only the tip of the iceberg, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), the leading national society of American Board of Plastic Surgery certified surgeons who specialize in cosmetic surgery.

"This is not the first tragic story, nor is it likely to be the last," says Franklin DiSpaltro, MD, president of the 1900-member organization. "Most cosmetic procedures have excellent safety records, so people may be easily persuaded that they are simple to perform and are without risk. But in the hands of untrained physicians or possibly criminals posing as doctors - in this case using an illegal substance - the results can be disastrous."

Authorities say that individuals posing as doctors injected unsuspecting patients, for cosmetic purposes, with substances not approved for use in the U.S. Some of these injections resulted in dangerous infections and disfiguring scars.

"There is a real need for patients to take responsibility in checking out the credentials of their healthcare providers, regardless of the treatment they plan to undergo," says Leo McCafferty, MD, who chairs ASAPS' Public Education Committee.

The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) offers these Guidelines for Consumers considering any cosmetic surgical or nonsurgical procedure:

  • Check the physician's credentials: A doctor's training and certification should be appropriate to the planned procedure. Certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) ensures in-depth surgical training in all aspects of plastic surgery. Membership in the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) means a surgeon is ABPS-certified and has met additional requirements for continuing education and experience in cosmetic surgery. Anyone can claim to be a doctor, cosmetic surgeon or plastic surgeon. Check these claims with a reliable, independent source.
  • Consider the setting: Prospective patients should be cautious about receiving cosmetic procedures outside a medical setting, such as in a private home or at a "party." If undergoing a surgical procedure outside the hospital, the facility should be accredited by a recognized national agency (see list below), state-licensed or Medicare certified.
  • Check on the doctor's hospital privileges: If a cosmetic surgical procedure is to be performed in an office or ambulatory surgery center, the surgeon should have privileges to perform the same procedure in an acute care hospital. When you call the hospital, ask for the professional staff office to verify if the physician is on staff and has privileges to perform the particular procedure.
  • Take time for a thorough evaluation and informed consent: Before any medical procedure, patients should provide their medical history, and be examined and evaluated for the specific treatment. They should receive detailed information about the procedure's risks and benefits in order to give full informed consent.
  • Plan on follow-up care: A reputable doctor will be available for necessary follow-up care of patients undergoing any cosmetic procedure.
  • Keep these numbers handy:
    American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS):
    1-888-ASAPS-11 (1-888-272-7711) or
    Verify a doctor's certification in plastic surgery and membership in this leading national organization of cosmetic surgery specialists.

    American Board of Medical Specialties:
    1-866-275-2267 or
    Verify a doctor's certification in any recognized medical specialty.

    Federation of State Medical Boards:
    1-817-868-4000 or
    Verify a doctor's medical license and check for disciplinary action.

    Surgical Facility Accrediting Organizations:
    Verify surgical facility accreditation and safety meeting nationally recognized standards.

American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities:
1-847-949-6058 or
Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care:
1-847-853-6060 or
Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations:
1-630-792-5000 or

  • Always remember: Surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures are medical procedures and should be undertaken only under the care of a trained specialist.


The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world's leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body. ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; Active Members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and nonsurgical aesthetic procedures. International Active Members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.


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