Northern Virginia Cosmetic Surgery Center Agrees to Settle FTC Charges That It Deceived Consumers About the Recovery Period, Risks, Pain & Scarring of Cosmetic Surgery

FTC News Release
June 24, 1992

The Alexandria, Virginia-based BelAge Plastic Surgery Center and its founder, Dr George F. Miller, Jr., have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges announced today, that they falsely stated in promotional materials that breast implants do not interfere with mammography — the test used to detect tumors in the breast — among other alleged misrepresentations about the safety, risks, scarring, pain or recovery period of various cosmetic surgery procedures. The proposed settlement agreement contains broad prohibitions against the challenged claims, and requires a risk disclosure any time Miller or BelAge state that cosmetic or plastic surgery procedures are safe.

Miller, an otolaryngologist (a physician with special training in ear, nose and throat medicine), specializes in head and neck surgery and facial plastic surgery, and some of his associates specialize in other types of cosmetic surgery. According to the FTC's complaint, BelAge and Miller advertised on television and in local newspapers the availability of a brochure titled "Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Plastic Surgery," and invited consumers to call and request a copy. The FTC alleged that the brochure contained numerous false and misleading statements, including that:

(According to a 1991 "Backgrounder" on breast implants from the Food and Drug Administration, "[b]oth silicone gel-filled and saline-filled implants can interfere with the detection of early breast cancer because they can 'hide' suspicious lesions in the breast and because having implants makes mammography more difficult to perform.")

Finally, the FTC charged BelAge and Miller with representing that cosmetic surgery is safe without disclosing that it entails serious adverse risks. Representing that cosmetic surgery is safe without also disclosing such risks is deceptive, the Commission alleged.

The proposed consent order to settle these charges, announced today for public comment, would prohibit BelAge and Miller from misrepresenting the likelihood of risks or scarring, the length of the recovery period, amount of pain, or the need for pain medication, following plastic or cosmetic surgery. Specifically, they would be prohibited from, among other things, representing in the advertising or promotion of cosmetic or plastic surgery procedures:

The FTC has published a fact sheet for consumers who may be considering cosmetic surgery. The sheet includes a discussion of how to choose the right doctor as well as some of the risks of specific procedures. For a free copy, write "Cosmetic Surgery," FTC Public Reference Branch.

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