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A 5-Year Review of Ethics Complaints to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Verheyden, Charles N. M.D., Ph.D.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: February 2012 - Volume 129 - Issue 2 - p 531–536
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e31822b62d4
Special Topic

Background: The Code of Ethics of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) exists to encourage and enforce ethical behavior among its members. Complaints against individual members may be filed by patients or their representatives, members of the Society, or other members of the public.

Methods: Data from a total of 677 complaints from 2004 to 2008 were reviewed by the author. These complaints were categorized with regard to geographic area, type of complaint, and the outcome of the investigation of the complaint, including disciplinary actions. The system of managing these complaints within the Society is discussed.

Results: States with the most complaints filed included California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, and New York, with all others having a minimal number. The most common complaint was filed regarding unethical advertising, followed by unprofessional conduct and participation in a contest. Differences in frequency of complaints were statistically significant (Fisher's exact test, p < 0.001). Fifty-four cases were heard by the Judicial Council, with 31 receiving discipline, primarily the less severe types of censure. The total number of complaints per year seems to be trending downward.

Conclusions: Ethical complaints (filed mostly by ASPS members) vary in frequency according to geographic area and the type of complaint. A downward trend was noted in the total number of complaints over the years 2004 to 2008, although this was not statistically significant. Given the basic purposes of the development of a code of ethics and its subsequent enforcement, the ethical construct within the ASPS seems to serve the specialty well.

Temple, Texas

From the Scott and White Healthcare, Texas A&M Health Science Center.

Received for publication August 30, 2010; accepted March 10, 2011.

Disclosure:The author has no conflicts of interest to reveal concerning the material presented in this article.

Charles N. Verheyden, M.D., Ph.D.; Scott and White Healthcare, Texas A&M University Health Science Center, 2401 South 31st Street, Temple, Texas 76508,

©2012American Society of Plastic Surgeons