Ethics Complaints: Where to Begin
Members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons ("ASPS" or the "Society") are bound by the Society's Code of Ethics (the "Code"). There are currently eight (8) classes of membership within ASPS: Active members, Life Active members, International members, Retired International members, Associate members, Retired Associate members, Honorary members and Affiliate members. Society members are held to high standards of medical and ethical competence and are expected to comply with the Code in all their contacts with patients, peers and the general public. These members are individually responsible and accountable for their actions and words, as well as the use of their names, by any individual or entity.
Candidates for Active membership are not members of the Society, but are expected to comply with the Code.
Complaints against Society members must be filed via the online complaint form.
Types of Ethics Complaints
The ASPS Ethics Committee investigates complaints alleging violations of the Society's Bylaws, Code of Ethics, rules or regulations. Per the ASPS Disciplinary Procedural Rules, anonymous complaints will not be accepted.
The types of complaints the Ethics Committee can investigate include, but are not limited to, professional misconduct, false and misleading statements involving any form of public and private communications, expert witness testimony, exorbitant fees, contests or raffles where the prize is a surgical procedure (requires an incision) or an integral part of the procedure (i.e. Breast Implant device). Injections (botulinum toxin, hyaluronic acid, dermal fillers), microdermabrasion and other skin surface treatments are not considered procedures.
The Ethics Committee's ability to investigate complaints about the quality of medical care received by patients is limited as these types of complaints require sufficient written documentation to support the allegation. We suggest directing quality of medical care complaints to the physician. Alternatively, patients may file their complaint with the appropriate medical licensing authority, which has the resources and responsibility to investigate these types of complaints. Contact information for many state medical boards can be found on the Federation of State Medical Boards website.
The Ethics Committee does not get involved with business disputes.
Complaints about Candidates for Active membership, ASPS logo violations and false membership claims should be directed to the Society's Membership team at email@example.com.
Complaints About Exorbitant Fees
Exorbitant fee complaints must include consent to release the patient's Protected Health Information (PHI), along with fee documentation and an explanation as to why the fees are exorbitant. Supporting documentation could include the patient's operative report, the billing statement and insurance Explanation of Benefits (EOB), if available. If applicable, references to and explanations about inappropriate CPT codes should be provided.
Complaints Relating to Expert Witness Testimony
The Society as a policy matter does not investigate testimony while a case is still pending or on appeal. To do otherwise would subject the Society to a claim that it is inappropriately interfering in the judicial process.
Expert Witness Testimony complaints must be filed within one year after completion of the legal proceedings, including appeals.
When filing an expert witness testimony complaint, the Committee requires an indication that the case in question has concluded and the appeal-filing deadline has passed. Additionally, the Committee requires a signed copy of the testimony in question, along with a letter that references the specific instances in the testimony that are believed to demonstrate conduct in violation of the Society's Code of Ethics. Each aspect of the testimony that is believed to be in violation should be followed by a brief explanation of why that portion of the testimony is believed to be false, deceptive and/or misleading. Citations to literature that support the complainant's position should be provided as well. Complaints using the following format are helpful:
On Page ___, Dr. Plastic testified that... [insert description of testimony or exact lines of testimony].
This testimony is [false, deceptive, misleading] because it... [insert summary of reasons supporting allegations.
A Typical Ethics Complaint Process
- A complaint is filed via the online complaint form. Complaints must reference the section of the Code the complainant believes has been violated. Supporting documentation must be provided.
- The Chair of the Ethics Committee reviews the complaint.
- If it is determined that the complaint is without merit or is outside the purview of the Ethics Committee, the Chair will notify the complainant and the matter will be closed.
- If it is determined that the complaint has merit, then a preliminary or full investigation will be conducted. Information about the complaint will be shared with both the member being complained about (the "Affected Member"), the person who submitted the complaint (the "Complainant") and the Ethics Committee member who will look into the matter on behalf of the Ethics Committee (the "Investigator"). Society staff and the Investigator will contact the Complainant, as needed. The Complainant will be provided with the Affected Member's response to the allegation against him/her and may react to that information. The Affected Member will be provided with the Complainant's reaction and may share additional details with the Investigator. The Investigator will share both parties' feedback with the full Ethics Committee.
- The full Ethics Committee will determine whether a violation of the Society's Bylaws, Code, rules, regulations or any other conduct detrimental to the reputation or best interests of the Society MAY have occurred.
- If the Ethics Committee determines that a violation MAY have occurred the matter will be referred to the Judicial Council for a full hearing.
- After the hearing and deliberation the Judicial Council will determine whether a violation of the Society's Bylaws, Code, rules, regulations or any other conduct detrimental to the reputation or best interests of the Society DID occur and will issue sanctions as described in the Society's Disciplinary Procedural Rules
- An investigation and any necessary Judicial Council hearing may take anywhere from three (3) months to one (1) year for completion.
- Once the investigation, including any Judicial Council hearing, has concluded, the Affected Member and Complainant will be informed of the outcome.