As any good therapist (or cheesy rom-com will tell you), trust is key for healthy relationships — especially a relationship as important as the one with your doctor. But in a terrible breach of doctor-patient confidentially, one woman in California filed a plastic surgery lawsuit after her nude before-and-after photos were posted online.
Let’s start at the beginning. With cosmetic procedures, it’s pretty routine to take before-and-after photos (which, duh, involve the patient’s naked body if they’re having a procedure anywhere below the neck) for the doctor’s portfolio — as long as the patient consents.
When Mandi Stillwell enlisted the skills of Quita Lopez, a cosmetic surgeon at the Aesthetic Laser Center in Fresno, California, for a tummy tuck, breast lift and implants in 2013, she gave the office written consent to photograph her naked torso for before-and-after shots, reports The Fresno Bee. But this consent had two major caveats: the photos were only to be used for business promotion and most importantly, they were never to be attached to her name. Totally standard.
Until the photos showed up online five months after Stillwell’s procedure — with her name. The worst part? Stillwell found out from a guy she’d been talking to on an online dating app — when he’d Googled her name, the photos came up. Horrifying. “I had lots of anxiety, lost a lot a sleep and cried a lot,” Stillwell told The Bee.
Understandably, she slapped the surgeon with a plastic surgery lawsuit. The surgeon’s defense claimed that the office had accidentally published the photos with Stillwell’s name and took them down as soon as she alerted them. If you ask us, that sounds like too little, too late for a serious breach of doctor-patient confidentiality. “The unauthorized publication of personally identifiable patient photographs on the internet can be very damaging to the well-being and reputation of patients, especially those who have an internet business or presence,” Stillwell’s lawyer said in court. “When something like that happens, doctors need to be held accountable when they fail in their affirmative duty to protect the privacy of those patients.”
This week, a Fresno judge ordered Lopez to pay Stillwell $18,000 in damages — significantly less than the $300,000 the patient sought for emotional distress and lost wages — according to another report by The Bee.
The photos have since been taken down, but let’s be real — the internet is forever.