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How safe is cosmetic surgery?

How Safe Is Cosmetic Surgery?

Did you know that there is a difference between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon? Or a cosmetic surgeon and a cosmetic physician? Many people don’t. Yet there is a difference and one you’d probably want to know about if you were considering having a procedure performed.

Legally, any doctor with a basic medical degree can perform surgery. Yet the level of training and experience of a doctor is something that can undoubtedly affect the outcome and a factor most of us would want to be appraised of in making a decision about undergoing a procedure of this type.

Cosmetic Medicine is not a recognised specialty. However, since 1999 the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery has had a medical faculty to accredit cosmetic physicians and a surgical faculty to accredit cosmetic surgeons. The ACCS also publishes a code of ethics and offers a 2 year advanced surgical training program.

Plastic surgery is a recognized medical specialty. In order to obtain specialist qualifications a doctor must undertake a five year postgraduate Surgical Education and Training program provided by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 10 March 2013 that dentists were performing breast augmentation and quoted Dr Hugh Bartholomeusz, a member of the Council of Plastic Surgeons, as stating that “these people don’t have surgical training”.

But is this just a turf war – the plastic surgeons protecting their income stream? Arguably that might be part of the issue, however we see a steady stream of clients who have undergone cosmetic surgery unaware of the qualifications of their chosen doctor. For many of those clients, the poor outcome is attributable, at least in part, to the lack of experience or qualifications of that doctor.

More than a decade ago, in 1999, the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) prepared a report for the Minister of Health entitled The Cosmetic Surgery Report. The report examined the adequacy of and need for consumer safeguards and the quality of consumer information in relation to cosmetic surgery. The report noted that cosmetic surgery operated outside the framework of organised medicine and recommended a Cosmetic Surgery Credentialing Council be established.

Despite the HCCC report and the recommendations that the report made, there continues to be concerns regarding the types of procedures and the quality of procedures being conducted by cosmetic surgeons. There is also a lack of public awareness of the training and qualification differences between cosmetic physicians, cosmetic surgeons (whether accredited by the ACCS or not) and plastic surgeons.

As stated in the SMH article, there is a complete lack of adequate consumer protection in this area. CHL supports Dr Bartholomeusz’s assertion that “something needs to be done urgently” to prevent unsafe surgery and procedures occurring.

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