Patient confidentiality is a critical business practice for any doctor, and when it comes to plastic surgery, patients are often at their most vulnerable, experiencing a major change to correct a feature or physical deformity they dislike, so privacy can never be overlooked. So, when news surfaced this week that a California woman’s privacy had been betrayed, it struck a nerve within the aesthetic community.
The case began in 2013 when this woman visited a plastic surgeon for a procedure (it has not been revealed exactly which one), in which she gave her surgeon consent to photograph her nude torso (including her breasts) before and after her operation to be used for anonymous promotion (both the woman and the surgeon in the case have yet to be named).
This is common practice for plastic surgeons, as before-and-after images are a critical selling point because they showcase the doctor’s work. For patients, it helps them visualize the types of results a doctor is capable of achieving for a range of procedures. The photos are typically shared within the doctor’s office, being shown to potential patients, but with the rise of internet searches on plastic surgery procedures, many doctors are also using these photos as promotional material on their websites.
Five months after this woman’s surgery, she says a man she had met found the naked pictures of her by running a quick Google search of her name. As a result, the woman sued her plastic surgeon for $300,000 in damages, saying she was “negligent and violated her duty to keep a patient’s medical information confidential.” But, as The Fresno Bee reports, she was only awarded $18,000 (a Fresno County Superior Court jury made the ruling this week; commenters on social media are saying she deserved much more).
The surgeon’s lawyer told the jury the photos were mistakenly put on the Internet and were taken down within a few days. However, as we’ve all heard before, “once it’s on the Internet, it exists forever.”