It is quite challenging to find someone you can trust to perform cosmetic surgery. This type of surgery is risk-laden, painful and invasive, despite holding the promise of transforming your life by improving our looks. Most people think the range of cosmetic surgical procedures, such as breast implants, are performed by uniquely qualified and highly trained specialists. Though there are laws and they vary with each region, it is perfectly legal for any medical physician to call him or herself a cosmetic surgeon.
Complaints from patients are consistently rising, but the industry remains mostly self-regulated. There is no authority that actually knows the types of operations being performed, by whom, how badly or how well, how many, when or where. There is thin evidence about any long-term risks of some procedures such as breast reconstruction and liposuction.
The basic laws in place require cosmetic surgeons to implement mandatory psychological assessment for non-adults. The same laws have put in place cooling off periods for patients. The Australian medical board has launched a consultation seeking feedback as one of the best ways to protect consumers. In many ways, cosmetic procedures are quite different to other medical procedures. The board is looking for the most effective way to manage risk patients without making or limiting judgements about consumer choices.
One of the four options the board is consulting on is the specific guidance for medical practitioners who are registered and offer cosmetic procedures. Other options that were flagged in the regulation impact statement include offering less explicit guidance of medical practitioners, boosting consumer education and doing nothing.
An RIS (Regulation Impact Statement) details the benefits and costs of proposed options and is required by the Office of Best Practice Regulation (commonwealth). The regulation impact statement offers detailed background information on the issue. It includes risks, benefits, costs, regulatory and non-regulatory options and their associated impacts, regulatory context and evidence.
There were guidelines that were proposed to be part of the law on medical practitioners who offer surgical or medical procedures. These guidelines proposed that:
Limits on the location cosmetics procedures can be done (it assists in managing risk to patients)
Detailed costs information
Face-to-face consultations that are mandatory before schedule 4 prescriptions are prescribed
Explicit responsibility by the treating practitioner for post-operative care, including emergency facilities when analgesia or sedation is involved
Explicit guidance on patient consent (informed), including emergency facilities when analgesia or sedation is involved
A 90 day cooling off period before any procedures of patients under 18 are carried out, along with mandatory assessment by a registered psychiatrist or psychologist
For all adults a week long cooling period before procedures are carried out
The laws that are currently in place have not been fully implemented. Some of them are mere proposals that when passed, could become law. When it comes to the most popular procedures such as breast reconstruction and breast implants, the laws in place do not fully protect interested individuals. It is therefore up to the patient to ensure they get the best service from their practitioners. In the near future, there will be laws that will ensure such patients are covered.
This article was contributed by our friend at Dr. Simon Weight's clinic, a breast clinic in Perth.