As new cosmetic surgery guidance will shortly be issued by the General Medical Council (GMC) here in the UK to protect patients, it is interesting to consider the approaches taken in other countries to tackle a largely unregulated industry.
This week, the Medical Board of Australia has issued regulations for medical practitioners on how to protect people undergoing cosmetic procedures. Like the UK, the cosmetic industry in Australia has only been lightly regulated and, although cosmetic surgeons are required to undergo extensive medical education and training to become accredited, cosmetic surgeons only need to have completed a basic medical degree to perform some surgeries.
The new Australian regulations, which are due to take effect from October 2016, recommend a seven day cooling off period for all adults before major procedures. For anyone under the age of 18, there will be a three month cooling off period with a mandatory evaluation by a registered psychologist, GP or psychiatrist for any major procedures. As well as the cooling off period, the new regulations also include guidance on patient assessment and informed consent, and require doctors to provide clear information to patients about the potential risks and complications to try to manage patients’ expectations before they consent to go ahead with surgery.
While the regulations have been welcomed by the industry as a whole, there are concerns that they do not go far enough. For example, the regulations fail to close a loophole which apparently allows GPs to perform invasive cosmetic surgeries such as liposuction and facelifts. The concern is that, although GPs and medical doctors may be capable of performing some surgeries, they are likely to lack the requisite training to respond if something goes wrong.
Amy Milner, solicitor in the Penningtons Manches clinical negligence team, comments: “As the cosmetic surgery industry has been largely unregulated not just in the UK but around the world, it is interesting to learn how other countries are trying to implement further guidance to better protect cosmetic surgery patients. One of the problems we often see in the UK - in a medicolegal context – is the difficulty in managing the expectations and post-operative concerns and complaints of patients who have not been appropriately advised pre-operatively what to expect from surgery. It is therefore very important that countries take steps to introduce stricter regulations not only protect patients but also to clarify what is expected of surgeons.”