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Ethical Concerns about Social Media Use by Plastic Surgeons

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Social Media Use by Plastic SurgeonsOver the past decades there has been increased interest in body contouring in NYC. Plastic surgeons use social media and the Internet to demonstrate their skill and knowledge via videos and photos of cosmetic procedures they have performed. Videos are also used to educate patients on available high-quality treatment options. In fact, social media platforms are an innovative tool that physicians can use to both educate and market to patients. However, there is increasing concern in the plastic surgery community about surgeons who post unprofessional videos with entertainment, rather than education, in mind. A new study provides the first code of ethical behavior for sharing videos of plastic surgery on social media.

The paper, which was published in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal and presented Oct. 6 at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) annual meeting in Orlando, highlights the need for guidelines to help keep plastic surgeons’ video posts professional and respectful. The authors point out that plastic surgery videos are crossing the line by attempting to lure future customers with flashy before-and-after images that gloss over the dangers of surgery. There are even videos of surgeons dancing or singing in the operating room. The irony is that it is these outrageous videos that go viral quickly and get the most likes and shares. The new guidelines argue that plastic surgeons should adhere to the principles of medical ethics and prioritize decisions that will not harm patients.

The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery offers certain guidelines for posting content on social media and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ code of ethics addresses how plastic surgeons should treat patients with respect with their words and images. Plastic surgeons should:

  • Clearly ask patients how they would feel when videotaped and broadcasted on social channels, while having their procedures. Patient consent is very important in such practices, and if they don’t object, the surgeon should get it in writing.
  • Censor patient identifiers when editing videos. If patients agree to reveal their faces, they should give special consent for that.
  • Get parental consent for patients younger than 18.
  • Allow patients to withdraw consent at any time. While accepting their withdrawal it should be clear that patient care they receive should not be compromised.
  • Be specific about what they will do with the videos, that is, inform patients who consent that the images, including videos, might be saved, shared and changed.
  • Inform patients that the copies of the photographs or videos recorded with their consent might live forever online, even if the physician deletes them on the practice’s website or social media.
  • Avoid reposting another doctors work and post it off as one’s own, or edit photographs to make results look better than they are.

While performing a procedure, surgeons should concentrate on the task at hand and not on videotaping. If providers want to make a video, they should consider hiring a professional videographer and also train staff and others about maintaining professionalism and integrity.

According to a Northwestern Now News story, the four principles of medical ethics are:

  • Respect for autonomy of the patient
  • Beneficence or promoting what is best for the patient
  • Nonmaleficence, also known as “do no harm”, and
  • Justice

Plastic surgeons should focus on posting tactful educational videos that show cosmetic procedures can be good for patients. Videos should provide people with a realistic view of what to expect. The physician-patient relationship is very important and special, and goes beyond marketing strategies and educational methods. It deserves the respect and decorum. When a patient undergoing a procedure is administered general anesthesia, a surgeons first and foremost responsibility should be the care of the patient.

Reputable plastic surgeons who offer body sculpting New York City maintain professional and integrity by adherng to ethical standards that prioritize decisions that will not harm patients.

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