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Woman sues plastic surgeon for posting images of 'cocaine nose'

Plaintiff says she reasonably expected privacy when she went to get her nose fixed. Instead, it was allegedly put online.

It can affect your nose. DowntownTB13/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I know that Google would like everyone's medical information to be public, but some people are sensitive about their rashes, appendages, and soft spots.

There are few, I fear, who would be happy to have images of their medically reconstructed parts on display for all to see.

There are even fewer who would be happy if their proboscis was referred to as their "cocaine nose."

This, however, allegedly happened to Sabrina Kropp from Chicago, as the Chicago Tribune reports. Kropp says in a lawsuit that she went to plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Walton, expressing a need to have her nose perfected, and that, as many plastic surgeons do, he took before-and-after photographs to show just how skillful he is at straightening the crooked and smoothing the wrinkled.

Kropp, 55, says the images were taken in 2004 but that when Walton opened a new practice, Plastic Surgery Chicago LLC in 2013, her features appeared on its Web site, accompanied by the riveting headline: "Cocaine nose." (The photos have since been removed.)

This was, to her, a breach of confidentiality. So she's now suing Walton, the University of Chicago Medical Center (where, the lawsuit says, Walton worked when Kropp was a patient), and the company that designed his Web site.

The case hinges on whether she gave written consent for the images to be used. Kropp claims she has "suffered great harm." Moreover, she alleges that Walton surely knew that she would suffer great harm. (I contacted Walton and the U. of Chicago Medical Center for comment. You'll find the university's response in the update note at the bottom of this post. Should I hear back from Walton, I'll update again.)

This is not the first time that a surgeon has been sued by a patient for allegedly displaying intimate images for his own marketing.

Last year, another case nosed its way to prominence, when a New York woman demanded $23 million from a surgeon who allegedly revealed her before-and-after images after a nose job.

She claimed that she had been subjected to "public ridicule and contempt."

One imagines that doctors ought to at least wonder whether using such photos might upset a former patient.

After all, in these days where the most vibrant dating Web sites are the ones that require just pictures and no words, looking your best is, every day, a trial.

Update, 4:24 p.m. PT: A spokeswoman for the University of Chicago Medical Center told me: "The physician named in the lawsuit left the University of Chicago Medical Center in 2007. It is important to note the University of Chicago Medical Center is committed to protecting patient privacy and has a robust series of policies and procedures in place to do just that. The institution does not comment on pending litigation."