Training Is Everything: A Must Read Before You Move Forward With Your Plastic Surgery

On a sad note, a news update detailed the recent suicide of a General Practitioner in South Africa following his investigation for several botched cosmetic surgeries.  Dr. Christiaan Botha took his own life less than a month before he was scheduled to appear before the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) on charges relating to practicing medicine outside the scope of his qualifications.

According to the article, Dr. Botha received his medical degree from the University of Pretoria and then ultimately was trained as a General Practitioner.  He then began performing cosmetic surgery after 10 years of “self-study” and assisting qualified surgeons.  The most recent hearing was related to six new cases of women for whom Dr. Botha performed breast augmentation but who all had developed surgical complications following their procedures.

The HPCSA accused Dr. Botha of failing and neglecting to provide proper care to these patients once they developed surgical complications.  Overall, there were actually an additional two cases of suspected negligence but Dr. Botha apparently paid an “admission of guilt” fine for the other when he appeared before a prior committee of inquiry.

Dr. Botha’s attorney recently won an appeal for the good doctor who was sentenced for another botched operation in 2007 in which the patient’s nipple apparently fell off her breast.  Subsequently, she developed infection to that breast and required extensive removal of tissue.  And a week after being prosecuted for this patient’s outcome, Dr. Botha was found guilty of the same offense to another patient.  He was ultimately suspended for a year, nine months of which was suspended for three years.

Following the initial sentence, Dr. Botha was found guilty of unprofessional conduct and was ordered to close his cosmetic surgery practice and to stop practicing as a GP for a year. Interestingly, that sentence (to stop practicing as a GP for a year) was ultimately suspended for a year. However, Botha appealed the sentence and won in March this year. The sentence was changed to a five-year sentence wholly suspended for 10 years.

While this story is obviously sad on multiple levels, everything could have been prevented.  And, unfortunately, this type of story is becoming more and more common as unscrupulous physicians practice outside their scope of training and harm the very people they were trained to protect.

As a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, I have seen this trend develop and grow on not only a national but an international level.  And while we are all human and we all are prone to mistakes, we are also educated enough to know that the MD degree does not guarantee outcomes nor does it allow us to practice whatever we want.

To protect yourself, you should always know the breadth and experience of training that your medical professional has before undergoing any procedure (no matter how benign).  A few well-defined questions may mean the different between a successful outcome and years of complicated revisions.  I encourage all of my patients to ask at least the following basic questions:

  • How long have you been practicing medicine?
  • What specialty is your training in?
  • How many of these specific procedures have you performed?
  • What is the worse outcome of this procedure that you have seen?  How did you fix the outcome?
  • What are my options if I am not satisfied with my result?
  • Can I see before & after photos of this procedure?
  • Can I speak with a patient of yours who has undergone this procedure?

Again, these are very basic questions and should not replace your gut instinct.  They should merely augment your comfort level when you do choose a qualified surgeon.

I hope that helps.  If you have any other questions regarding Cosmetic Surgery or minimally invasive procedures, please contact us at our Denver Plastic Surgery office.  We look forward to working with you!