When plastic surgery goes wrong, people can be left with debilitating physical symptoms, as well as the potential anguish of dealing with disfigurement and other unexpected outcomes.
Following the death of a woman undergoing a cosmetic procedure earlier this year, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard criticised the unregulated nature of this type of surgery.
However, a crackdown on cosmetic surgery is on the horizon, after Mr Hazzard and other ministers agreed that regulations must change during a Council of Australian Government (COAG) meeting this November.
The term ‘cosmetic surgeon’ is not yet recognised by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency as a specialised area of surgery. This means doctors don’t have to be certified or undergo extensive training to claim expertise in the area.
Professor Anand Deva, a plastic surgeon and member of the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), welcomed the news that stricter guidelines will be enforced in the future.
“In this area of medicine, where there is a dangerous mix of commercialism with professionalism, the best way to protect patients is to ensure that quality, safety, standards of care and transparency with respect to risks and benefits are placed ahead of the needs of the business,” he explained.
Health ministers attending the COAG meeting voted unanimously to better protect vulnerable patients through better regulation. Nevertheless, Mr Hazzard was quick to clarify that any new measures introduced would only target underqualified medical practitioners.
“It needs to be carefully considered so as not to have any negative impacts on doctors who are lawfully entitled to call themselves surgeons,” he was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) as saying.
Botched plastic surgery may constitute medical negligence, so patients who feel their doctors have failed in their duty of care should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss their case.
But Dr Mark Magnusson, president of the ASAPS, believes more needs to be done to better protect patients.
“In theory, a GP could just hang around a clinic that does breast implants for a while and then start doing it themselves,” he told the SMH.
The problem of unregulated cosmetic surgery became so severe in NSW that the Health Care Complaints Commission published a public warning last month.
The HCCC said patients should ensure they are adequately informed of the risks before proceeding with operations, as well as check whether their practitioner is registered and qualified to perform surgeries.