(CBS) The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is warning prospective plastic surgery patients: Do your homework, because most doctors can legally perform plastic surgery even if they aren't trained to do so.
"Patients are getting injured, some are dying during procedures performed by non-board-certified plastic surgeons," Dr. Malcolm Z. Roth, president of the society, said in a written statement. "We want patients to understand what to ask their doctor and what to look for so that they can maximize their chance of a safe and successful procedure."
The society said only board-certified surgeons are properly trained to perform plastic surgery. To illustrate their point, the society's campaign tells the cautionary tale of a 40-year-old Calif. woman, Dinora Rodriguez.
In a video called "Do your homework," viewers meet Rodriguez, who underwent surgery to have her breast implants replaced by a surgeon who was recommended by a friend. When Rodriguez woke up, she found her breast implants fused together.
The doctor also operated on a scar on Rodriguez's eye without her consent - and botched that procedure. Rodriguez can't even close her eyes completely and needs to medicate them daily with eye drops.
"It was a terrible experience waking up from surgery and seeing that this had happened," Rodriguez said in a written statement.
The doctor she enlisted to fix her procedure - Los Angeles-based plastic surgeon Dr. Stevein Teitelbaum, told ABC News that Rodriguez's first surgeon made basic mistakes that board-certified plastic surgeons wouldn't make.
What's even more disturbing than her botched procedure, according to Dr. Teitelbaum, is that the medical system legally allows cases like this to happen. Teitelbaum has seen an increase in patients asking him and his colleagues to "fix" procedures botched by less-trained surgeons.
"It's actually legal in this country - as advanced as it is - for non-board certified plastic surgeons to perform plastic surgeries," Teitelbaum said in the society's video.
Once doctors get their medical license, they can practice in any field they choose, Teitelbaum said. Only four states - California, Florida, Louisiana and Texas - have tough "Truth-In-Advertising" laws that require providers to be transparent about their training. Until state medical boards take the initiative to stop this "drifting" among doctors, the onus is on patients, Teitelbaum said.
"I didn't know to check my doctor's qualifications and I regret it," Rodriguez said.
What should patients do? According to the society:
- Ask if your doctor is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery
- Look for a certificate in the doctor's office that includes the seal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons
- Doubts about a doctor's certification? Go to www.plasticsurgery.org, and click on "Find a Surgeon" to see if your doctor is listed.
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