I’m sure we’ve all seen the stories about cosmetic surgery nightmares overseas, but now we are seeing them here in Australia as well? In last few years we have seen class actions being taken against cosmetic surgery providers, alleging negligence during surgery that left then with life-threatening complications, and sadly we have also seen deaths caused by cosmetic surgeries gone wrong.
Like most people, you would assume that in a country like Australia, there would be strict regulations and standards in place for where cosmetic procedures can be perform and who can perform them.
Well think again…. Currently there are cosmetic procedures being performed in unlicensed, office-based premises not subject to the same standards and regulations imposed on hospitals and day procedure centres. And they are being performed by doctors with a basic medical degree…. And its all legal.
Australian Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS) have been calling for a nationwide regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry for years. Former president of ASPS, Dr Hugh Bartholomeusz says
“part of the problem was the clinics had no obligation to collect data on complications or other issues with their procedures, causing a shortage of evidence to support the push for greater regulation.”
And sadly, it has taken some tragic, high-profile events for the community to realise that cosmetic surgery is not trivial and patients undergoing cosmetic surgery procedures should be afforded the same protections as patients undergoing any other type of invasive surgery.
So what should you look out for?
Check if the surgeon performing your procedure is a Cosmetic surgeon or a Plastic Surgeon.
What’s the difference?
All surgeons have differing levels of training, experience and expertise. Plastic surgeons practice plastic and reconstructive surgery, including cosmetic surgery.
In Australia, doctor must be trained through the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) to qualify as a plastic surgeon. This involves a minimum of 8 years on top of their medical degree and once completed, the doctor achieves the qualification award – FRACS (Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons). Only qualified plastic surgeons that have trained through RACS can then become a member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
Many doctors who describe themselves as Cosmetic Surgeons are not Plastic Surgeons, and are not trained for invasive surgical procedures. However currently in Australia it is legal for any doctor with a basic medical degree to perform surgery, so Doctors with minimal surgical training are able to promote themselves as performing ‘Cosmetic Surgery’
Make sure you do your research on the medical practitioner you are considering using, and it’s highly recommend you check your surgeons credentials with the below organisations.
Check where your surgery is being performed
Check the facility, ask if they are accredited, are they licenced and do they have an anaesthetist.
Complications from any surgery can occur, and if they do, you want to be in a facility where you can be transferred very quickly to an intensive care unit and have appropriate trained staff on hand.
In most of the major hospitals those are very close and in day surgery facilities they have an arrangement by law to be close and be able to transfer a patient quickly and safely to an intensive care unit.
Patients are walking into these often very flashy office-based clinics they think look fantastic, but there’s not an anaesthetist present and they’re nowhere near a hospital.
What is being done?
As of January 2018, Queensland has introduced new regulations designed to provide greater protection for people undergoing cosmetic surgery and hopes it provides momentum for nationally-consistent regulations across all states.
In Queensland an increased list of cosmetic procedures such as breast augmentations, high volume liposuction, labiaplasties, face lifts and Tummy Tucks will, from January 2018, only be able to be performed in licensed private health facilities that are appropriately staffed and equipped to deal with the risks associated with these surgeries.
Find our more about the new laws here: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/system-governance/licences/private-health/regulated-surgical-cosmetic-procedures/legislation-changes
Though this is just one state, we are starting to see a step in the right direction, as other states are starting to review their regulations as well. Hopefully it will lead to a nationally-consistent regulation across all states.