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Minimising medical malpractice claims in aesthetic medicine: Importance of informed consent

11 April 2023

As the demand for aesthetic medicine has boomed in recent years, so has the volume of medical malpractice claims for non-surgical treatments. How can we prepare for these claims and defend against them?

The non-surgical cosmetics industry has boomed in recent years with the growing popularity of injectable and semi-permanent procedures, such as derma fillers and chemical face peels, influenced by various fashion trends in the media and online. As demand for these procedures continues to rise, we are experiencing an increased number of claims related to 'less than perfect' aesthetic outcomes. 

Why is the volume of claims high? 

The call for 'non-invasive' treatments requires experienced practitioners and as new careers in the industry unfold to meet the demand for treatments, and the non-surgical cosmetics industry remains unregulated, it can be difficult to guarantee a practitioner's competency. The risks of administering treatments incorrectly are high without regulated standards. 

How can you mitigate the potential for a negative outcome?

Medical malpractice claims relating to aesthetic negligence are not entirely unavoidable as the results are down to the personal preference of the patient. However, claims are largely made when a patient has an allergic reaction to products used in the treatment, when a practitioner administers the treatment incorrectly or when patients are misinformed of the risks of treatment, prior to undertaking the procedure. One key way to minimise the frequency of these claims is through informed consent. 

Informed consent refers to how potential outcomes of treatment are communicated to patients. By offering full disclosure, you can make sure that patients are fully aware of the desired results and any potential side effects or complications that may affect the patient in the short term (with healing, numbness, etc) and in the long term. It is important to take the time to explain the risks associated with the procedure and how they can be managed if they occur. 

The final step to informed consent is obtaining written consent from the patient, e.g. have patients sign a written consent form that outlines the procedure and associated risks. This can be obtained during the initial consultation with the patient to determine any allergies, skin conditions and disorders and other potential risks before administering the treatment. 
Keeping accurate and detailed records of the informed consent process, including the information provided to the patient and their written consent, can help to further minimise claims volume. 

Additionally, carefully selecting patients for treatment and ensuring that they have realistic expectations and understand the potential outcomes of their procedure is important for transparency. Providing proper follow-up care to patients, particularly close to their procedure can help to identify and address any issues as soon as possible.

In conclusion, informed consent is critical in minimising med mal claims in aesthetic medicine. By fully disclosing the potential outcomes of treatment, explaining the risks, and getting written consent, practitioners can reduce the number of claims received and minimise their exposure to financial losses. Proper documentation, patient selection, and follow-up care can further minimise the risk of med mal claims.

How we can help

Our claims team has extensive experience in advising on and defending clinical negligence, medical malpractice and disciplinary and regulatory complaints and claims. We advise on and defend clinical negligence, medical malpractice and disciplinary and regulatory complaints and claims. We act in relation to a wide spectrum of clinical risk matters, ranging from claims made against hospitals arising out of surgical interventions to those against individuals arising out of non-surgical treatments. We have particular experience in claims arising out of surgical procedures (including cosmetic surgery), non-surgical cosmetic procedures, chiropractic treatment and complementary therapies. 

For support in this area, please visit Claims Management & Adjusting

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