American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Consumers

ASPS and NESPS Fight to Define Surgery in Law

Each year, state legislators consider myriad bills that attempt to change state scope of practice laws, which impact if and how non-physicians practice, often giving those non-physicians the right to practice medicine outside their training. Currently, 23 states have defined "surgery" in their state laws and regulations to clarify which medical professionals can perform surgical procedures within their scope of practice. To help encourage the best health outcomes, ASPS has long advocated for the adoption of the American Medical Association (AMA) and American College of Surgeon's definition of surgery to be codified into state laws. That definition ensures that only trained surgeons - not non-physicians - are performing surgery on their patients.

After learning of the companion bills in the Vermont House and Senate that would inappropriately define surgery, ASPS partnered with the Northeast Society of Plastic Surgeons (NESPS) to amend the bills to protect patients in the state. The societies submitted joint comments to the House and Senate health committees warning that only a statutory definition of surgery that restricts the performance of surgery to allopathic and osteopathic physicians would ensure that non-physicians are prohibited from independently performing surgery on patients in the state. The societies cautioned that the legislative proposals would be a dramatic step backwards for patient safety and requested the bill be amended to include the AMA and ACS's definition of surgery. Since ASPS and NESPS voiced their opposition to the measures, they have stalled in the legislature and appear unlikely to gain momentum before adjournment on May 8, 2020.

Like Vermont, Massachusetts has not codified the definition of surgery into law, and ASPS has been actively pushing the AMA and ACS's model legislation over the past few years to address this problem. In March, ASPS submitted comments to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health in support of legislation introduced that aimed to codify the AMA and ACS definition of surgery. ASPS applauded the legislature for taking steps to protect patients from non-physicians who do not have the requisite education and training to perform surgery in the Commonwealth. The legislation still awaits further action and ASPS will continue to advocate for its passage before the legislature adjourns in January 2021.