I saw an item in the news the other day that just adds to my obsession with telling potential patients that they need to thoroughly investigate their plastic surgeon before they hire him or her to perform a procedure. Unfortunately, this news item shows just how hard unscrupulous surgeons are fighting against that research.
According to this AP article, a cosmetic surgery company was found guilty of posting fake reviews on its website about how great their surgeons are and the incredible results they achieve. These were testimonies from fictitious patients who obviously never made the positive statements that the company posted.
The company in question is Lifestyle Lift, a cosmetic surgery franchise that specializes in facelift procedures. But don’t let that fool you. This exact same thing could happen in any plastic surgery subspecialty, including my own, labiaplasty and vaginoplasty.
In this case, the company was alleged to have posted false patient testimonies on their website. When the State of New York’s Attorney General’s office heard about it, they filed suit against the company. Rather than go to trial and risk the public-relations nightmare that they should have endured, Lifestyle Lift reached a settlement with the State.
Under terms of the settlement, Lifestyle Lift was ordered to pay penalties in the amount of $300,000.
Still, there is an ongoing investigation. The case is the first in the United States where a plastic surgery company was investigated for this shady online practice. In addition to the false testimonies, the State says the company had its employees create fake websites giving testimonies about a procedure which they said they had done (even if there was never any such procedure done on them).
Lifestyle Lift operates in more than 40 locations throughout the United States. The company specializes in face lifts. To their credit, they have issued a new policy that states all Internet content must comply with acceptable business standards.
So let me use this story as a chance to reiterate a point I state often, on my blog, in articles, and to patients in person: One of the best things you can do to make sure you receive a successful plastic-surgery outcome is to do your homework. This means, certainly, you visit the plastic surgeon’s website. But as this story shows, that’s not enough. You need to make sure the surgeon is properly accredited. You need to speak with the actual surgeon (not a franchise representative) in person and find out how long she/he has been operating, how many of your chosen procedures she/he has done, and ask for before and after pictures as well as contact information for patients.
Let me add one other step: Google that person’s (or that company’s) name. You’ll be surprised how effective this can be if there have been a large number of complaints about the surgeon or company.