Undergoing an invasive procedure like breast enhancement is concerning enough for patients, who may ponder the surgery for years or months before moving forward and putting their trust in a surgeon to make the transformation possible. Plastic surgery is a big decision! Some patients of a St. Louis plastic surgeon who found their consultation photos online was not part of the plan.
According to New York Daily News, several women are suing Dr. Michele Koo, a surgeon in Kirkwood, Missouri, after learning that their topless before-and-after photographs for their breast enhancement procedures appeared in Google searches for their names. Ten patients are suing the doctor; more than 40 of Dr. Koo’s patient’s photos ended up online. Before-and-after photos are a common marketing practice to encourage people to consult surgeons about the procedures.
The lawsuit claims that Dr. Koo was negligent in posting the photos with the patients’ names attached. Lawyers for Dr. Koo are finding fault with a New York company called MedNet Technologies, the firm that designed Dr. Koo’s website, for the faulty error; MedNet claims that Dr. Koo is responsible for the photo’s problematic content because her office created the pictures. Lawyer Neil Bruntrager, representing eight patients in the lawsuit, said that the women—ranging in ages from 21-58—were upset by finding their pictures online.
Court documents claim that release forms signed by Dr. Koo’s patients’ state that “neither I nor any member of my family will be identified by name in any publication.” Doctors give patients the option for consent regarding before-and-after pictures to be posted on websites. There is an expectation for anonymous photos to not include patient faces or names. John Pellman, MedNet CEO, says that doctors are responsible to ensure that their content maintains patient anonymity.
The article states that there are similar incidents of patient names appearing on website before-and-after photographs happening across the country. A study done by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch found that many doctors’ websites have been found to have “widespread” problems with MedNet and lack of anonymity with patient photos. The company manages more than 2,500 medical provide websites globally, including large hospitals and smaller medical practices.