Worrying increase in enquiries from cosmetic surgery patients with pre-existing psychological problems

Posted: 08/09/2015


The growing number of young people who want cosmetic procedures continues to be a concern. Younger patients with self-esteem issues are potentially vulnerable and can be at higher risk of developing psychological problems after cosmetic surgery if their expectations are not met. 

Penningtons Manches’ experience of dealing with patients who have self-esteem or confidence issues is that they often have unrealistic expectations and, if they either suffer complications or their expectations are not met, they may become depressed.

There is a debate about whether people electing to undergo cosmetic surgery procedures (particularly younger patients) should be psychologically assessed pre-operatively to determine whether surgery will benefit them or could put them at risk of psychological harm. A psychological assessment may help some patients to determine that surgery is unlikely to have a positive outcome and a proper exploration of someone’s motivations for wanting surgery could avoid some post-operative problems. 

Our clinical negligence team is seeing an increase in the number of enquiries from young patients who have not had the expected results from their cosmetic procedures with the outcome that a pre-existing psychological condition has been exacerbated. One enquiry related to an 18 year old who requested a blepharoplasty procedure, following which she was diagnosed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). Our investigation tried to determine whether or not there was an obligation on the surgeon to refer the patient for psychological assessment before agreeing to go ahead with the procedure. We also investigated whether a bariatric surgery patient should have been psychologically assessed before having surgery. 

Amy Milner, a member of the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, who deals with claims arising out of cosmetic surgery, says: “We are seeing more people with pre-existing psychological problems trying to get a quick fix by undergoing cosmetic procedures. Their condition often worsens and their self-esteem is further reduced. Anyone offering cosmetic surgery should explore a patient’s medical history, particularly if the procedure being requested is unusual. It may be that a mandatory psychological assessment is warranted for those with a history of psychological problems.”


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