Unlike the majority of states, Arizona allows people who are not trained as medical doctors to perform surgical procedures such as Brazilian butt lift (BBL) and liposuction. These surgical procedures are performed by “naturopaths” and they have a wide range of procedures they can perform.
The question remains…Should the scope of their medical services allow them to perform cosmetic surgery?
In general, naturopathic medicine is an alternative form of medicine that usually involves medical remedies that are drugless and natural. According to the law in Arizona, the practice of naturopathic medicine involves the use of “nonsurgical methods” even though a naturopathic license in the state also allows the holder of the license to perform minor surgeries.
The issue at hand is that neither the license or the law clearly defines or explains what constitutes a minor surgery. This large legal loophole allows the holder of the license to perform surgical procedures such as BBL, liposuction and other cosmetic surgeries.
A local TV station in Phoenix recently learned that some naturopaths in the state are performing Brazilian butt lifts which involves liposuction as well as fat transfer to achieve the desired results. Dr. Sean Lille, a board-certified plastic surgeon based in Scottsdale, told a TV station that a BBL can have serious complications even if it is performed correctly. He also told the station “You have to have the education, you have to have the background, you have to have the experience, you have to have the knowledge of having various options that if you encounter a problem, how are you going to get that patient safely out of that issue?”
Dr. Lille added that it is clear that cosmetic surgery procedures such as Brazilian butt lift and liposuction should not be classified as minor surgeries. He considers them to be major surgical procedures that should only be performed by medical professionals with the proper background and training. In addition, the Arizona Medical Association does not classify Brazilian butt lift or liposuction as minor surgeries.
In a bill signed into law by Governor Ducey in March of this year, naturopath physicians are now considered to be qualified healthcare providers when it comes to removing or providing clearance to someone who has sustained a head injury or concussion. They are also able to perform services that fall outside the scope of their practice if a person is experiencing a life-or-death situation.
In total, the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges states that only twenty-three states allow for this alternative form of medicine. The fact that Arizona allows for such loose regulations and a wider scope of practice has resulted in a number of statements criticizing Arizona from both national and local medical experts.
The American Naturopathic Medical Association told the Phoenix TV station, “ANMA represents real naturopathic practitioners and real naturopathy never includes any of those procedures.” They added, “Legislators in AZ, through regulation that continuously expands the naturopathic scope of practice, have allowed licensed naturopaths to practice medicine in the state of AZ without going to a medical school.”
This is a big difference from other states such as California where the only minor medical office procedures naturopaths can perform are the repair of superficial abrasions or lacerations as well as the removal of foreign bodies that are located in superficial tissues. In addition, there are currently no plans for them to perform traditional liposuction or other procedures that are not normally allowed at a family practice.
The so-called “liposuction loophole” has been discussed in past meetings held by the Arizona Naturopathic Physicians Medical Board. It has appeared on their agenda at least four times since January of 2021 but the board members have yet to decide on the issue.
Gail Anthony, the executive director of the board, was asked where she and the board currently stand when it comes to defining “minor surgery” and if they are going to eliminate the confusion that continues to exist because of the absence of a definition. Anthony told a media outlet, “The board has taken it under consideration. We haven’t made a determination yet.”
When it comes to deciding about which medical professional to use for a Brazilian butt lift and/or liposuction, the first step is to research the background of the doctor and make sure they have the proper medical background and training to perform the treatment.
Patients should also ask to see photos of past patients treated by the doctor in order to get a better idea about the type of results that can be expected after the procedure is completed.
Finally, if anything seems “off” or the patient is not certain if the doctor they are meeting with is the best choice for them, the patient should wait to have cosmetic surgery until they feel confident about their choice of doctor.