Sabrina Kropp filed a lawsuit Tuesday claiming her Chicago plastic surgeon posted "before" and "after" photos of her facial reconstruction surgery, labeled “cocaine nose,” on his website without her consent. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the lawsuit alleges Dr. Robert Walton snapped the photographs in 2004, claiming he would maintain the images in Kropp’s private medical record, yet when he opened a new practice in 2013, Plastic Surgery Chicago LLC, the photos of her face appeared on a freshly launched website. Kropp seeks compensation for damages as publication of photos, according to her lawsuit, caused her to suffer “great harm.” Walton, the lawsuit also states, should have known that photos of Kropp’s nose posted on a website would cause her “to become distressed, shamed, and embarrassed.”
What exactly is cocaine nose? The current incarnation of Walton’s website says, “When cocaine is snorted through the nose, it causes the blood vessels in the nasal lining to constrict.” Essentially, after prolonged constriction of these blood vessels, they eventually become destroyed and die, causing sores that may lead to “perforations of the septum, infection, loss of supporting cartilage, scarring, and eventual collapse of the nose.”
Although the three "before" and three "after" photos have been scrubbed from the current website, the six images carried black redaction marks covering the eyes of the unidentified patient. (A page can still be accessed by searching for archives of the site.) As reported by the Tribune, Kropp is alleging Walton violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which requires written permission from a patient before releasing confidential medical records. A spokeswoman for the University of Chicago Medical Center, which is also named in the suit as Walton worked there while performing Kropp’s surgery, told C/NET the university medical center “is committed to protecting patient privacy and has a robust series of policies and procedures in place to do just that.” Meanwhile, neither Walton nor his attorney has commented on the suit. However, even though the plastic surgeon remains silent, those reading about Kropp's lawsuit cannot hold their tongues.
“I doubt if her mother could identify her from the blacked-out photos,” notes one Smoking Gun reader, whose opinion appears to be the general consensus among those responding. “Who, besides herself and the surgeon would have recognized her from the 10 year old redacted photos. … Sounds like she self-harms in more ways than only using drugs,” writes another reader, who suggests the publicity from her lawsuit means many people who would not have known are now familiar with her case. Finally, 'hardliner1' commented in the Chicago Tribune, “I'm sure she will 'blow' through the money."