ASAPS Patient Safety Campaign

The Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS) is concerned that patient safety is being compromised by the growing number of medical practitioners who are operating outside of their scope of practice.

Doctors, parading as surgeons, who have not completed the accredited training pathway through the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) are not only just harming patients, but putting patients lives at risk.

Join us in urging the Council of Australian Governments Health Ministers to do something about this tidal wave of breaches in patient safety by signing our petition to ban the title ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’.

In Australia, it is currently legal for anyone with a basic medical degree to use the term ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’.  This means you could be operated on by someone who has not completed any formal surgical training, and yet, they are allowed to advertise themselves, and recruit patients, on the basis of a title that is confusing, and has no standing in the eyes of the Medical Council of Australia, the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) or Medicare.

Don’t elect to put yourself in harm’s way!  Sign our petition to protect patient safety.

Breaches in Patient Safety

  • A man has been found guilty of carrying out a number of procedures that involved injecting patients with cosmetic injectables despite never being a registered nurse.  The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) who levelled the charges, claimed McLennan was performing the duties of a registered nurse when he worked at the clinic and was in breach of national laws.  The story was reported by 10 Daily on 23 November 2019.

  • The Sydney Morning Herald on 3 November, reported a tribunal has found a Sydney cosmetic surgeon showed a “reckless disregard for patient safety” and performed stem cell treatments akin to “quack medicine”, banning him from practising for seven years following the death of a patient with severe dementia.
  • News.com.au reported on 6 September the story of Rachael Archer who had breast surgery to boost her confidence after having kids. The NSW South Coast mum-of-two says she was convinced Dr Blackstock was a qualified and experienced surgeon — but it turns out he was nothing more than a general practitioner, and he was also unlicensed at the time of her surgery.

  • On Channel Nine’s A Current Affairs program (30 July) an investigation into a ‘celebrity’ doctor revealed a wake of patients who were left with poor surgical outcomes and two in fact died.  One of the patients interviewed for the story said she would have never agreed to be operated on by the doctor in question had she known he wasn’t a Plastic Surgeon.

  • July 2019 the public became aware of a beauty salon hidden in the back of a jewellery store in Springvale, Melbourne that had put patients lives at risk of HIV through poor hygiene standards.  According to media reports, the Department of Health officers were shocked to discover cockroaches among medical equipment in the clinic at the back of the jeweller’s when they raided the store in late May.
  • In June 2019, the Herald Sun reported that a woman undergoing a liposuction procedure said her doctor performed the roles of Anaesthetist and Surgeon, for which neither was he accredited.
  • The Guardian’s Melissa Davey, under the headline “Fake Plastic Surgeon performed breast implant on woman without anaesthetist” on 4 April 2019, wrote that an NSW district court judge, Leonard Levy SC, found a patient was the victim of unprofessional and incompetent treatment by Dr Blackstock and awarded damages of $204,607 and ordered Dr Blackstock to pay her legal costs.  In his judgment, Levy stated, “I find that if the plaintiff had been told by the defendant that he was going to provide the described treatment without having suitable qualifications, training and experience, it would have been most improbable that the plaintiff would have submitted herself to any such operation at the hands of the defendant.
  • On 31 March 2019, Channel Seven’s Sunday Night program again brought to our attention the devastating consequences that can happen when doctors are allowed to parade as surgeons, free to title themselves whatever they please.
  • In January 2019, a South Australian man was sentenced to jail for criminal activity in relation to the importation and distribution of counterfeit medicines.
  • There would appear to be at least two class actions underway with hundreds of cases of women who have been disfigured, suffered life-threatening infections and who have been severely financially compromised at the hands of under-qualified medical practitioners performing invasive surgical procedures.
  • The TGA handed down a $25,000 fine to an Australian company caught importing counterfeit products meant for injectable treatments in 2018.
  • In 2018 the ABC’s Four Corners program that aired in August highlighted several instances of catastrophic outcomes for patients at the hands of cosmetic medicine providers who demonstrated an inability to play by the rules.
  • In 2018 there was the first case in Australia of a dermal filler causing blindness in a patient.
  • In August 2017, Beauty Clinic Owner, Jean Huang died at the hands of a foreign national who was not registered to practice medicine in Australia following the injection of “quite high” levels of the painkiller tramadol.
  • Raids on beauty salons in Victoria and NSW found many breaches where counterfeit products were being used.
  • BBLs (Brazilian Butt Lifts) have been found to have the highest death rate of any cosmetic surgery procedure: one in three thousand surgeries result in fatalities.
  • A woman died in 2008 in a Sydney Cosmetic Clinic following uncontrolled bleeding following mini liposuction (Coroners Case findings in 2016).
  • Two women suffered cardiac arrests during breast augmentation procedures at The Cosmetic Institute in 2015 (in January and September).

Don’t elect to put yourself in harm’s way!  Sign our petition to protect patient safety.

False and Misleading Titles

  • Many of the medical practitioners implicated in recent cases with death or disastrous surgical outcomes do not have formal accredited specialist training in Australia.
  • Many of these medical practitioners use a fabricated title that is not a true and accurate reflection of their AHPRA registered title.
  • In many cases, patients were under a false illusion that “their surgeon” was a specialist who was comprehensively regulated by the relevant authorities.
  • The public’s expectation of credible regulatory oversight of practitioners stated titles, and in turn, safe surgical outcomes are not being met.

Don’t elect to put yourself in harm’s way!  Sign our petition to protect patient safety.

The current situation

  • Specialist recognition by AHPRA confers a title that is protected by law. AHPRA relies on accreditation of training by the Australian Medical Council (AMC).
  • But the law is not explicit about titles that are not recognised by AHPRA – such as ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’.
  • The spirit of the law (Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009) – i.e. to avoid titles, names, initials, symbols, words or descriptions that might indicate they are a specialist – is being regularly abused by the cosmetic surgery industry.
  • The loophole allows medical practitioners who lie outside the protected title regime to overstate their credentials in a way that is confusing to the public.
  • More resources to police the issue is not enough – the law needs to be explicit about the use of the title ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’.

Don’t elect to put yourself in harm’s way!  Sign our petition to protect patient safety.

The response to date

  • 2016: The Medical Board re-issued guidelines for cosmetic surgery covering conflict of interest; patient assessment; provision of services to patients who are under 18 years of age; consent; patient management; provision of patient care by other medical practitioners; prescribing and administering Schedule 4 cosmetic injectables; training and experience; qualifications and titles; advertising and marketing; facilities; and financial arrangements.
  • 2017/2018: State Governments (Victoria, QLD and NSW) have passed legislation restricting the type of facility that can perform cosmetic surgery.
  • 2018: COAG issues consultation paper to review the National Law including the use of title ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’.

Don’t elect to put yourself in harm’s way!  Sign our petition to protect patient safety.

Why does the use of the title ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’ matter?

  • Allowing doctors to continue to abuse this loophole and use the fabricated title of ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’ compromises patient safety, endangers life and consumes significant public resources and tax-payers dollars to fix up ‘botched’ jobs in public hospitals.
  • As NSW Health said in its Report on the Review of the Regulation of Cosmetic Procedures April 2018, p8:

However, in respect of the title ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’, the use of this title can be seen to imply that a medical practitioner has a form of specialist registration and could be seen as misleading to patients.

Don’t elect to put yourself in harm’s way!  Sign our petition to protect patient safety.

Our Recommendation

To keep patients safe, we want it made mandatory for a practitioner to only use a title that is identical with their AHPRA category of registration. 

Thereby making the title ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’ redundant.  This would provide patients with a clear way to easily identify who the accredited surgeons are in Australia.

Don’t elect to put yourself in harm’s way!  Sign our petition to protect patient safety.

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