1. I was told that Hair Transplants are completely safe and have a 99% success rate. What can go wrong? And I also heard that "bad" Hair Transplants are ancient history.
Hair Transplants are relatively safe, in the sense that it is highly unlikely that a patient will die during surgery. Unfortunately, bad hair transplants are NOT a thing of the past, they are as much of a problem NOW as ever before.
When hair transplant surgeons claim they have a "99% success rate", they are using a bare-minimum definition of success: that at least some of the patient's grafted hair "took", and the grafts survived the surgery. That's like claiming that a rhinoplasty (nose job) was successful just because the patient's nose ended up smaller, and it didn't fall off his face. That is a piss-poor definition of "success". A truly successful hair transplant lies in the careful attention to the fine details. Unfortunately, very very few doctors in the field are able to get the details right.
The biggest risk with hair transplants is that the patient will end up looking like CRAP. Despite some recent improvements in hair transplant surgery, the odds of the average person getting an unsatisfactory result are still way too high. Since hair transplants are "un-do-able" that is a very serious problem to have. The risk of getting a bad-looking result is actually quite high, but patients are never warned about that risk, by the doctors, or the salespeople who are hired to work at the clinics. Telling a potential customer the truth about hair transplants is bad for sales. So instead, patients are shown sample photographs of only the best-possible results, and led to believe that everyone will get excellent results.
Telling a patient the truth, that his results might only be mediocre, is bad for business. Since a mediocre hair transplant looks like an obvious hair transplant, it should rightfully be considered a failure. The measure of success of any cosmetic surgery is how detectable it is, as cosmetic surgery. The vast majority of hair transplants are easily detectable, and FAIL that simple test.Only a small handful of doctors can consistently give their patients a natural-looking result. Many of the doctors doing hair transplants are inconsistent at best, and incompetent at worst.
Only a small handful of doctors in the field have voluntarily adopted the latest techniques. The majority of clinics use the older methods because they are faster, and speed equals profits to a clinic. Profits are the main goal at most clinics. So while the bar has been raised by a small handful of doctors, the vast majority of hair transplant clinics are still doing mediocre or crappy work.
While the actual surgery has improved at some clinics, the illegal business practices that most clinics use have not changed at all. For example most clinics still use illegal sales tactics like "lowballing", and most clinics have salesmen on staff who illegally examine patients and schedule surgery.
Also, any progress in the last couple of years can't make up for the previous four decades of medical fraud, and crude and disfiguring surgeries.
There are still two MAJOR problems with the hair transplant industry, that have NEVER CHANGED: the flood of incompetent or unskilled surgeons, and the widespread use of illegal or dishonest business practices. Buyer Beware!!!
2. Your website has a lot of negative stuff about hair transplants, how come you don't say anything good about hair transplants?
That is not the focus of this website. There are already other websites where the so-called "good side" of hair transplants are discussed. I already have my hands full covering the amount of material I want to cover. The scope of this website is already broad enough.
In my opinion there are a small handful of doctors who give their patients consistently good hair transplant results. I estimate this number is less than 5% of all the doctors in the field. Those are really terrible odds for the average patient.
The "real story" that still needs to be covered is not the handful of doctors doing good work, or how very recent developments in technique have finally allowed certain skilled doctors to create excellent results; the "real story" here is how over several decades, more than one million men were subjected to ultra-crude surgeries that a doctor promised would result in a natural appearance. The "real story" is that BAD RESULTS are still far too common. The "real story" is that clinics STILL mislead patients, doctors STILL pay their salesmen a commission for selling surgeries, clinics are STILL breaking the law even now, there are STILL no regulations or standards or accountability, etc... Even now, after 40 years of atrocious disfiguring surgery!
The focus of this website is not on the small minority of ethical and talented surgeons, it is on the vast majority of unethical and unskilled surgeons.
I don't think telling the truth is "negative". And in my opinion, there is a real need for this information to be documented. If this is considered too negative, then please don't read any further. Saying that there needs to be more "positive" information on my website is like saying that a website about Al Capone has a responsibility to discuss "Al Capone's good side". Wrong!
3. You say you had your hair transplant surgery in the 80s. Why did you wait so long to complain about your bad experience?
First of all, this website is not mainly about my bad experiences; This website is mainly about how corrupt the hair transplant industry is. I show my bad results to compare them to the false advertising that my clinic did. My "Results" page is only a small portion of the content of this website.
This website is meant to be a historical documentation, and to also deal with a topic that is timeless: How hair transplant clinics use false and misleading advertising, and the disgraceful misconduct that the entire hair transplant industry has been founded on.
Second of all, I did complain to my clinic, right after getting the first of my four prescribed surgeries. The clinic's salesman a.k.a. "consultant" (who did all the pre- and post-surgical evaluations, not the doctor) dismissed my complaints. He told that I needed to "keep going" and get all of the prescribed number of surgeries, in order to have a successful result. After I finished with all the surgeries the clinic prescribed, I could see that the results were nothing like what I had been promised. I complained to the clinic again, and the consultant told me that I should keep getting even more surgeries. His solution for me was "more sales". I realized that more surgery was not going to be the answer, and that I had been lied to.
I had a total of 4 surgical procedures within a short time span. It typically takes a year for a hair transplant procedure to "mature", and most "botched" patients are embarrassed and ashamed. By the time I mustered up the nerve to come forward and discuss my experience with an attorney, the statute of limitations had run already run out. (Only 2 years in Illinois). This made a malpractice lawsuit impossible. I was SO ashamed of what had happened to me that I had put off any legal action, until it was too late.
I got connected to the internet around 1999 or 2000, and I am not a web designer or programmer. There is no commercial aspect to this website. I think it is important that doctors are held accountable for their misconduct. When a medical clinic bends the truth, glosses over the facts, and blatantly lies to patients, just to pad their own wallets, they are a disgrace to the field of medicine. This kind of deception is standard procedure in the hair transplant industry.
In fact, the entire field of commercial hair transplantation was established on a foundation of lies.
4. Isn't hair transplantation an elective surgery? Nobody forced you to get a hair transplant.
While nobody forced me to get a hair transplant, what the clinic did was con me into surgery, by lying and creating false premises.
My clinic prevented me from making an informed decision about a medical procedure, which is illegal and unethical. They did this by lying to me during my consultation, by witholding important facts, by glossing over the negatives, and overstating the positives. My clinic also distributed "educational" material that is full of false claims and deceptive statements. This material shows a long-term and deliberate pattern of lying to prospective patients.
"Informed consent" laws were created to protect patients from unethical doctors. Instead, "informed consent" laws get twisted by hair transplant surgeons, for their own advantage.
"...the point of consent procedures is to limit deception and coercion..."
(Informed Consent)..."provides assurance that patients and others are neither deceived nor coerced."
"Patients...give genuine consent only if they are neither coerced nor deceived..."
Dr. O. O'Neill
"Some Limits of Informed Consent"
The Journal of Medical Ethics
February 1 2003
Hair transplant clinics may be able to skirt the "letter" of the consent laws, but they DO violate the SPIRIT of those laws.
Every clinic has patients sign a "legal consent form" before surgery, which states things like "All of my questions have been answered". This lets clinics off the hook legally in some states, and allows the clinic to repeat the scam endlessly. I was shown my legal disclaimer only minutes before surgery, while I was waiting in the surgical chair.
My case is not an isolated incident, or a misunderstanding. It is nothing less than institutionalized malpractice: deliberately lying to prospective patients, in order to sell more surgeries. It is true that a hair transplant is an elective surgery, but when a patient has been misled, he has been prevented from giving informed consent.
5. How come you didn't do more research before your surgery, so you could have avoided this clinic?
Good question. Before the internet, researching hair transplants was extremely difficult.
I actually thought that going to a consultation at the clinic was "doing research", but I never imagined that a medical clinic would deliberately lie to me. If you ask any hair transplant clinic why they have "consultants" on staff, they will claim it is to "educate" patients about hair transplantation. I consider myself relatively intelligent, but when a medical practice is willing to lie to you, the patient can't possibly win. My consultation WAS research, but it was intended to deliberately mislead me.
The credentials the clinic provided me seemed legitimate and impressive, and the promotional material was persuasive, to a person who knew nothing about hair transplants at the time. I was 20 at the time of my consultation, and 21 when I underwent surgery. Perhaps I was a little naive about doctors at that time. It didn't dawn on me that a surgical practice might be dishonest. I assumed that any dishonest medical practice would be quickly shut down by the authorities. Sadly, that is far from true.
Back in the early 80s, hair transplants were not nearly as common as they are now. They were considered sort of "new" to the general public. Doctors had been doing transplants since the early 60s, but it wasn't until the 70s and beyond that the field became blatantly commercialized. The average guy was not really exposed to hair transplantation until more recently. In the mid-1970s, the FTC launched a lawsuit against the AMA to make it legal for medical practices to advertise, and that led to a boom in things like commercial hair transplantation. I consider myself a casualty of the FTC's decision to allow medical practices to advertise and blatantly commercialize themselves, without providing any oversight or regulation.
The short answer is "there was very little research I could do, at that point in time".
6. Why would patients return to the same clinic for additional surgery, if their results were so bad?
Because that was what the clinic recommended. We were only trying to comply with the recommendations of the clinic. Recent patients might not know that until the 90s, patients were told that they should wait for only 2 to 8 weeks between surgical procedures. It takes about 3 months just for transplanted grafts to begin growing, but in the meantime, patients were advised to continue getting additional surgeries. So it was hard for patients to realize how badly they were getting screwed up, until it was too late. Most guys wanted to complete the surgery quickly, so they could get on with their lives.
I wanted the best possible result, so I was a "model patient". I followed the course of treatments that were prescribed for me. I knew something was very wrong immediately after my first surgery, but the clinic promised me that everything was normal, and that I had to continue with the rest of the surgeries in order to have a successful outcome. After the first surgery, the patient has forever committed himself, because permanent changes are made to the scalp. I decided to trust the clinic, as they were licensed doctors who claimed to be experts.
"The final result is not attained for 12-18 months following surgery because of the initial 3 month delay in hair growth, the fact that multiple procedures are required, and even after hair growth has begun, several months are required for it to attain sufficient length for any cosmetic improvement."
"Once grafting is begun, patient(s) should be encouraged to complete it as rapidly as possible. This not only reduces time required and length of cosmetic disability, but also improves the final result because these patients tend to get more grafts and generally the more grafts done the better the result."
from Hair Transplant Surgery, O'Tar T. Norwood, MD. 1973, Charles C Thomas, Publisher
By the time I realized that the clinic had broken all of their promises to me, it was too late. When a patient still has a lot of hair remaining at the time of surgery, it can conceal the true results of his surgery. Despite the false advertising my clinic did, a hair transplant does not "end hair loss". Hair loss is progressive, and many many hair transplant patients do not realize how much they have been damaged, until they lose more hair.
My hair transplant never looked any good, but as I got older and continued to lose hair, it looked even worse.
7. All of this happened a long time ago. It's too late to sue. Why don't you just forget it and move on?
When someone in a position of authority (like a doctor) abuses their authority and harms patients, the public needs to be warned. The courts may have a statute of limitations on malpractice lawsuits, but there is no limitation on telling the truth. The public needs to be warned about crooks and quacks.
I was vulnerable and I trusted this medical practice to take care of me, and instead I was lied to and taken for a ride. I will never be able to have a totally normal appearance. I have already undergone SIX corrective surgeries, and I guess I may need another TEN MORE SURGERIES, before I can begin to look somewhat normal. Corrective surgery is emotionally traumatic, life-disrupting, and expensive. The fact that I need to undergo this much corrective surgery, in order to fix a cosmetic surgery that I was promised would improve my appearance, is an outrage. The fact that all of this pain and expense and trouble could have been avoided, if only my doctor was honest instead of profit-driven, is sickening.
My life has been wrecked by this doctor. It's very hard for me to find good-paying jobs with the way I look, and it's almost impossible to develop intimate relationships when you are disfigured. I now find it difficult to trust people, so it's hard to form friendships. In short, my life has been ruined and there's nothing for me to "just move on" to.
The only people who wish I would "just move on" more than I actually do, are the dishonest doctors who are responsible for the disgraceful misconduct I am documenting on this website. These crooks wish that everyone would just forget about the false advertising, the lying to patients by "consultants", and the decades of crude surgical techniques. For the most part, the doctors and consultants responsible for these criminal acts have NOT been held accountable for their actions.
Over the past 40 years there have been over a million men who have been misled by hair transplant clinics, and deeply regret their hair transplant, yet nothing has been done. Many of these men resort to wearing a hairpiece, while others try to get extensive corrective surgeries, in hopes of looking normal again. "Repair" surgery makes up a significant amount of the current hair transplant business; In some doctors' offices, repair surgeries to correct another doctor's mistakes can be 50% of their clientele, and business is booming. Many patients were unable to be surgically repaired, and decided to hide their poor surgical results under a hairpiece. Over the past 40 years, many men have committed suicide due to bad hair transplant results. Most men are stoic, they are too ashamed to come forward and complain, and instead focus on trying to regain their dignity. I refuse to be silent about my experiences any longer.
Nobody gets a hair transplant unless they feel self-conscious about their appearance. When a hair transplant clinic takes a self-conscious guy and leaves him looking disfigured, it is nothing less than a crime against humanity.
8. Are you going to name your clinic and your surgeon? And you say your surgeon spent very little time with you, so isn't a lot of this really more the "consultant's" fault?
Of course I am going to name my clinic; it's all over the pages of the promotional material I'm posting as well. My doctor was Carlos J. Puig, at the Cleveland Hair Clinic in Rosemont Illinois. It is true that Dr. Puig (pronounced "Pwig") spent almost no time talking to me, and the vast majority of false promises were made by my consultant. I met Dr. Puig for the first time only a few moments before he began operating on me.
However, Dr. Puig was the Medical Director for the Cleveland Hair Clinic franchise, and he was also the co-owner, along with a man named Victor Leonhardt, who was a businessman, and not a doctor. So Dr. Puig was responsible for the medical practices of this clinic, for teaching the consultants how to sell the surgery, and for ultimately deciding which patients he would operate on. Carlos Puig ran the clinics and "called the shots".
The Cleveland Hair Clinic chain was the oldest and largest franchise doing hair transplantation in the United States for many years. Before there was a "Bosley Medical" (formed in 1974), there was the Cleveland Hair Clinic (formed in 1973). The Cleveland Hair Clinic (CHC) also went by the names Cleveland Hair Transplant Center (CHTC) and Puig Medical Group (PMG). There was no actual clinic in Cleveland... There is a "real" Cleveland Clinic, which is a legitimate and prestigious medical center. Calling the business "Cleveland Hair Clinic" was a crass attempt to cash in on that name (it would be like calling a business "The Mayo Clinic for Liposuction").
Today Dr. Puig is called a "pioneer" of hair transplant surgery, and has been quoted as an authority on hair transplantation on health-oriented web sites like MedicalConsumerGuide.com. In my view, what Dr. Puig actually "pioneered" is the "hair mill", a disgusting conveyor-belt approach to cosmetic surgery, where the emphasis is on mass-marketing and profits.
While I do also hold the "consultant" Dick Malmin personally responsible for ruining my life, ultimately Dr. Puig was calling the shots, doing the surgeries, helping create the false advertising, and profitting the most from his "hair mill" approach to cosmetic surgery.
9. Why don't you actually bring this up with Dr. Puig?
I have brought it up with Dr. Puig.
On December 21st 2002, Dr. Puig was the "special guest" on the radio show "Get Ahead with the National Hair Hour". I called in to the program, and over the public airwaves, I described to the listeners how I had gotten bad results from my transplant, and how I felt like I had been lied to and cheated by Dr. Puig's clinic. The hosts of the show hemmed and hawed, and quickly hustled me off of the air. Meanwhile, Dr. Puig was completely silent.
I also have traded emails with Dr. Puig since then. He does not acknowledge the suffering that I tell him he has caused me, or comment on the false advertising he used, that I confronted him with. His responses to me are hollow, as if he has no remorse for his disgraceful misconduct. What he seems to be most concerned with, in my opinion, is avoiding a lawsuit from me. He has responded with a reply of legal disclaimers.
Dr. Puig is no longer affiliated with the Cleveland Hair Clinic. When Dr. Puig split from the Cleveland Hair Clinic, it resulted in a bitter lawsuit where Dr. Puig's legal team was slapped with
record-breaking fines for lying to a federal judge.
Dr. Puig now performs hair transplants in Houston and Austin, as part of another huge chain of clinics. Also, Dr. Puig now gives lectures to other hair transplant doctors on "Professional Ethics" (?) and "How to Grow Your Practice". It's a good indication of just how corrupt the entire hair transplant industry is.
9. What can be done to clean up the hair transplant industry?
See the section of this website called LAWSUITS AND OTHER POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS (also called "Legal Options") for a list of suggested action.
I think that more dissatisfied patients need to complain, as loudly and as often as necessary. It doesn't matter when you had your surgery... if you are dissatisfied with your hair transplant, you should make your voice heard. If you are a recent patient and are unhappy, you should talk to a malpractice attorney about filing a lawsuit.
I believe what is required is intervention by federal agencies like the FTC, who oversees complaints about false advertising. I also believe that the various State's Attorney, Attorney General, and District Attorney's offices should be notified about the illegal practices of hair transplant clinics. A hands-on approach is needed by state and local authorities to stop illegal business practices and sales tactics that are common practices.
Unhappy patients should contact the various media outlets, and ask them to look into the problem of dishonest and incompetent hair transplant clinics.
I also think it is the duty of the few ethical hair transplant doctors to do whatever they can to clean up their field, in order to protect the public. That means speaking out, notifying agencies about known abuses and illegal practices, being available to testify on behalf of injured patients in a lawsuit against another doctor, and other actions.
Above all, the hair transplant industry needs INTERVENTION.