Cosmetic surgery safety guidelines – what you need to know

Posted: 03/11/2015


As cosmetic surgery becomes more popular than ever in the UK, it is not surprising that our clinical negligence team is seeing an increase in the number of (often avoidable) complications that arise after cosmetic surgery. Although the majority of complications relatively minor, some of the more serious complications that we come across will affect a patient for the rest of their life.

More often than not, when we meet with prospective clients who are unhappy following their cosmetic surgery, it is apparent that they were not appropriately advised by the surgeon or nurse practitioner about the potential risks of the procedure or whether they were even a suitable candidate for cosmetic surgery. This often means that, when things do go wrong, they are not adequately equipped to deal with the outcome. We are seeing an increase in prospective clients who tell us: “If I had been told that was a recognised complication, I would never have gone ahead with it”. 

Whose fault is it then, when a patient does not get the outcome they were expecting? Is it the medical practitioner for failing to adequately counsel the patient or the patient for failing to ask the “right” questions? One could argue that, ultimately, a medical practitioner has an obligation to ensure a patient is properly advised about the procedure they wish to undertake. This is now even more important following the recent Supreme Court decision in the case of Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board [2015] which changed the law on consent. The judgement confirmed that there is a legal duty on medical practitioners to take reasonable care to ensure that a patient is aware of material risk of injury inherent in any proposed treatment. 

But prospective patients should also ask the medical practitioner enough questions to ensure they understand exactly what the surgery entails and the recognised complications and potential risks. 

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) and British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) both have “consumer safety guidelines” on their websites which we would urge any prospect patient to consider before embarking on cosmetic surgery. These are easily accessible and free. 

Here is BAPRAS’s 5 Cs cosmetic surgery checklist:

  • Think about the CHANGE you want to see
  • CHECK OUT potential surgeons
  • Have a thorough CONSULTATION and ask the right questions
  • COOL off before you commit
  • CARE about your aftercare. 

Amy Milner, an associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches says: “While BAAPS and BAPRAS are not new organisations and their safety guidelines have been on their website for some time, we are always surprised about how many patients do not properly research the type of surgery they want or their surgeon and don’t understand the implications that the surgery will have on their lives.”


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