Florida Cracks Down on Plastic Surgery Clinics

After USA Today’s exposé on the worst of Florida’s plastic surgery clinics received nationwide attention, it looks like Florida is finally taking steps to make it harder for dangerous clinics to operate.

To be fair, legislative efforts have been made since 2014 to crack down, and Florida State Senator Anitere Flores sponsored this bill before USA Today published this piece about felon-operated clinics.

On June 25, 2019, Governor DeSantis signed into law Bill CS/CS/SB 732 — Office Surgery, which will go into effect on January 1, 2020. It requires that clinics offering certain types of office surgeries (read liposuction and plastic surgery) are to comply with the same regulations and inspections as physician-run offices.

This law allows Florida to stop a clinic’s operations or revoke the clinic’s registration, and prevent offenders from opening new clinics. But is it going to be any more effective than the existing three strikes rule for Florida physicians?

History of Plastic Surgery Malpractice in Florida

South Florida, particularly Miami, has one of Florida’s highest concentrations of discount plastic surgery clinics. Unfortunately, many patients – probably more then we’ll know – discovered that they got what they paid for in dirty, poorly-run clinics. Some patients were permanently disfigured and others died in the back rooms.

Many of these clinics were run by people who were convicted of felonies or white collar crime, or investors removed from operations. Because they weren’t physicians, there was a loophole that allowed them to escape the same regulations that would have allowed a health board to shut the clinics down. They hired doctors that had malpractice histories or were not certified in plastic surgery.

Incredibly, representatives from such clinics told USA Today that “criminal histories have no bearing on the way the centers are run and that their facilities meet all state safety requirements to carry out procedures.”

What Will Change Under the New Law?

One of the most important changes is that an offender will not be able to open another office for five years, and physicians could have their license revoked for five years. The loophole that allowed these clinics to operate differently than other medical offices is now closed.

One doctor from the Florida Cosmetic Surgery Center is already complaining that it’s too strict and is quoted as saying, “It is a knee-jerk reaction, I think – five years is a bit much. You can be drunk driving, you can commit all kinds of malpractice. That is just way too much for something that might be a minor infringement.”

This is the worst attitude. Yes, ‘you can drive drunk and you can commit medical malpractice,’…but there should be equally strong consequences for endangering people in those cases, too.

Will Florida’s Plastic Surgery Regulations be any More Effective than the Three Strikes Rule?

It’s difficult to say. Many of the doctors involved in the dozens of malpractice suits at these discount plastic surgery clinics were disciplined by medical boards – and they continued to practice.

Once again, my best advice is still to research your physicians.

From the Bill Summary:

The department may suspend or revoke the registration of an office for failure of any of its physicians, owners, or operators to comply with these provisions. If an office’s registration is revoked, the department may deny any person named in the registration, including owners and operators of the office, from registering an office for five years after the revocation.”

The department may also impose any penalty set forth in s. 456.072(2), F.S., against the designated physician for failure of the office to operate in compliance with the health and safety requirements. The board must also impose a fine of $5,000 per day on a physician who performs a procedure or surgery in an office that is not registered.”