Medical Malpractice and Cosmetic Surgery

On Friday, June 23rd, a Superior Court judge decided not to overturn a civil jury’s decision to rule against medical malpractice on the part of surgeon Dr. Richard Marfuggi. The Daily Record, a local newspaper in New Jersey, explained that Marfuggi is a renowned plastic surgeon, who specializes in breast implant and reduction surgeries. Deborah Wrede, the patient, claims that Marfuggi left her “mutilated and flat chested,” reported the Record.

Regardless of the particulars, this case’s broader implications of cosmetic surgery and medical malpractice may continue to be a point of contention in New Jersey courts. The question for a jury in a medical malpractice case is whether or not a doctor deviated from the standard of care that any reasonably prudent doctor would hold him or herself to in the same or similar situation. The interesting part of this case is that it focuses on cosmetic surgery, not critical surgery. For critical surgery, courts have ruled to expose a brightline standard, making the jobs of future juries less speculative. For an extreme example, imagine a minor surgery, such as the removal of a benign cyst, which results in the death of a healthy patient. It seems relatively clear that this would be gross malpractice, because no patient should die in that situation.

Here, in the cosmetic realm, this jury has espoused through its ruling that, whether or not a doctor meets the specifications of a patient, he or she may still be acting “prudently.” It does not seem reasonable for a patient to be so displeased with cosmetic work that she would say of herself to be “mutilated,” yet still have to pay a doctor for his so-called “prudent” work. Breast reduction surgery seems to be a fairly common surgery in this day and age. If this case is seen as precedence for cases to come, it may be hard for displeased patients of cosmetic surgeons to win civil suits against them. Fortunately, in the counter, if this trend continues, then low quality surgeons will likely lose their business altogether, because of the patient’s inability to protect themselves from possible malpractice. Perhaps this case can teach both doctors and patients a lesson.

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