Stop Rampant Malpractice in Plastic Surgery

A plastic surgeon whose teenage patient fell into a coma late last year during an eyelid and nose procedure has accused his boss of forcing him to perform surgery under dangerous conditions to turn a profit. At the time, a device that checks the amount of oxygen being supplied to the patient malfunctioned, the surgeon claimed, but his boss told him to continue regardless.

That is not the only horror story from the industry. Last week, a woman in her 30s who was receiving liposuction and a nose job fell into a coma during surgery and died. Four days earlier, a man in his 30s died during corrective jaw surgery at a clinic in Busan.

These incidents stem from a lack of care in plastic surgery clinics for the safety of patients because they only want to perform as many operations as possible to make money. One surgeon who quit a lucrative job at a clinic in Seoul's affluent Gangnam area told the Chosun Ilbo he performed as many as 15 operations a day. He said there were timers in the operating rooms allotting just 30 minutes to an hour for a double eyelid or other procedure on the eyes and no more than two hours for a nose job.

The number of complaints involving botched procedures almost tripled from 1,698 in 2008 to 4,806 last year, according to the Korea Consumer Agency. Among the 71 people who got help from the KCA in settling disputes over botched plastic surgery in the first half of 2013, only 15 percent said their surgeons warned them of the risks and potential side effects in advance.

Yet Korea ranks at the top of the world in terms of the number of people receiving cosmetic surgery, with 13.5 per 1,000 people going under the knife. Discounts are offered to draw more patients, and some simple procedures are undertaken for free when patients choose to go through expensive procedures like corrective jaw surgery. Competition among plastic surgery clinics is also getting fiercer -- in the Apgujeong subway station alone, there are 110 ads for them.

Health authorities need to start by tackling unfettered advertising that give people the illusion that their lives will change if they simply go under the knife. But above all they must put strong punitive measures in place. Clinics who fail to warn patients of the risks and potential side effects or perform surgery without the presence of a professional anesthesiologist should be closed down.
englishnews@chosun.com / Mar. 14, 2014 12:54 KST