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Class-action Suit Prevails Against 2 Plastic Surgeons

Posted December. 15, 2008 10:08,   


A group of plastic surgery victims have won the first class-action suit in Korea against plastic surgeons.

The Seoul District Court awarded damages of 100 million won (72,859 U.S. dollars) to 27 patients who suffered severe side effects such as pain, irregularity and asymmetry after receiving calf reduction or partial gastrocnemius muscle resection procedures from two plastic surgeons.

The court ordered the defendants Nov. 19 to pay four million (2,914 dollars) to 5.8 million won (4.225 dollars) to each of 24 plaintiffs.

The suit was filed in March last year after six patients who suffered side effects from calf reduction surgery at a clinic in southern Seoul set up an online café. They sought people with similar cases.

Just two days after the café was set up, more than 70 people joined.

A 40-year-old woman who joined the café in July said, “I feel severe muscle pain under my heels when walking. I especially have sharp pangs in my ankles. I found I wasn’t alone in experiencing severe side effects from plastic surgery after surfing the Internet.”

The Web community now has about 2,500 members.

Calf reduction or partial gastrocnemius muscle resection procedure reduces gastrocnemius muscles to make thinner and longer calves.

The cosmetic surgery clinic received two million (1,457 dollars) to three million won (2,185 dollars) for non-incisional calf reduction, which reduces muscle bulk in the calf, and partial resection of gastrocnemius muscle by using ultrasonic waves.

Medical experts warn that both procedures can cause severe forms of neuralgia, a disease whose chief symptom is neural pain.

Dr. Yang Jong-yun, head of anesthesiology and pain medicine at Korea University Ansan Hospital, said, “Procedures that kill nerve cells that do not cause harmful effects, including inflammation, should be avoided. If doctors perform plastic surgery, they should explain the adverse side effects that could ensue.”

The court said in a statement that the hospital failed to properly warn the patients of the possible side effects and blamed the two plastic surgeons for malpractice.

One of the defendants appealed the decision, saying the other surgeon was responsible.

An attorney for the defendants said, “This class-action lawsuit suggests that victims are more likely to win a class-action lawsuit than an individual would in medical malpractice lawsuits.”

Kang Tae-eon, director-general at the civic group Consolidation for Medical Consumer, said, “Most medical malpractice in cosmetic and plastic surgery are not likely to lead to direct lawsuits due to the small amounts of money at stake, the time needed, and the cost of filing a lawsuit.”

“Since the class-action suit can save costs for filing a lawsuit and have a significant impact on future cases, similar lawsuits for medical malpractice are likely to follow.”

The civic group also said the historic ruling could deter plastic surgeons from performing reckless cosmetic surgery.