January 22nd, 2013 (InsideCostaRica.com) The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Costa Rica admits that under current law, which dates from 1962, a loophole allows general practitioners to perform surgery without having any additional education or recognized specialty.
The loophole is the result of the fact that general practitioners graduate from Costa Rican universities with the title “Doctor in Medicine and Surgery,” and the College of Law does not differentiate between the two terms, even though the country’s medical union agrees there is a significant difference in practice.
Even the universities themselves confirm that their medical programs have at most one year of surgery education, though students attend only in order to observe surgical procedures.
The loophole allows general practitioners to perform anything from simple stitches to plastic surgeries, without the need to be accredited or specialized in any form of surgery or as a surgeon.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Costa Rica has recently found itself involved in a number of cases where doctors were operating on patients without possessing any sort of accreditation in the country.
The most recent example is the investigation of Dr. Andres Vargas Scott, after former model Cristina Garcia filed a complaint against the doctor for allegedly severely deforming her buttocks.
According to the Professional College, the doctor, who has denied the charges, has been accredited as a general practitioner only, not a plastic surgeon.
Once in the operating room, whatever a doctor does is exclusively the physician’s responsibility, whether or not he is qualified to perform the surgery or procedure.
Alexis Castillo, president of the Physician’s Professional College, said that the law must urgently be reformed, in order to limit and define the difference in capabilities between general physicians and specialists.
Castillo stated that he suggested reforms to the legislators that form the Special Investigation Commission for the Costa Rican Social Security System (CCSS) over a year ago.
Castillo, who is a gynecologist in the CCSS, said that he has witnessed his own co-workers providing gynecological care, even though they have no specialization in the field.
Just last year, the College opened 318 investigations against physicians based on various complaints, of which almost half were for malpractice. In many instances, those cases were for procedures carried out by non-specialized doctors.
Alberto Arguello, president of the Costa Rican Association for Plastic, Aesthetical and Reconstructive Surgery, believes that the solution lays in the universities, which should simply provide the title of “Doctor of General Medicine,” excluding the words “ and Surgery.”
Directors and deans at the universities also agree that their graduates are not qualified to perform surgeries without furthering education
The same loophole also exists in the dental field in Costa Rica, according to the Professional College of Dentists.