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Truth and Transparency in Medical Advertising Needed for Patient Safety

Posted on Monday, 13 August 2018

Truth and transparency in medical advertising are critical to ensuring cosmetic surgery patients remain safe in Australia said Dr Naveen Somia, Specialist Plastic Surgeon and President of the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS) in response to Monday (13 August) night’s Four Corners program on the ABC.

“Throughout the episode, there were plenty of examples of significant harm being done as part of a cosmetic procedure because the practitioner indulged in false and misleading advertising to entice unsuspecting patients.

“I commend Journalist, Louise Milligan and the Four Corners program for bravely digging into the ugly business of cosmetic surgery.

“Cosmetic surgery patients trust messaging coming from medical professionals, not believing that someone who is charged to heal could do them harm.  Often, however, the glossy advertisements are littered with airbrushed statements and pumped up qualifications.  We urge every patient to critically question cosmetic surgery advertising to see if there are untruths and misleading terminology at play.

“Misrepresentation by doctors pretending to be surgeons is rampant and has created a minefield for patients to navigate.  Unscrupulous providers, with their aggressive marketing sales tactics, lure people in for procedures they often don’t need, or in worst cases, cannot afford.

“The runaway train that is social media defines no boundaries and respects none, provides the perfect platform for unscrupulous providers to lure in patients.  It’s here that patients are left to fend for themselves dealing with doctors and cosmetic clinics that operate dangerously outside the scope of practice and risk patient safety,” Dr Somia said.

Dr Somia said the rapid rise and phenomenal growth of the cosmetic surgery industry had caught the traditional regulators off-guard in a classic case of technology leap-frogging society.

Dr Somia believes that because cosmetic surgery can be performed outside of the safety of accredited hospitals, some unscrupulous practitioners have pushed the limits and indulged in procedures that have compromised anaesthetic and surgical safety with disastrous results as featured on the ABC’s Four Corners program.

“The example of the derma-filler injection in a cosmetic clinic causing blindness, the botched breast implant operation that required eight surgeries to fix it, and the life-threatening infection following unsafe surgical practices featured on the Four Corners program shows just easily patients can be preyed upon.

“Safety standards have been let slip with the de-medicalisation, trivialisation and commodification of cosmetic procedures.  Many patients are unaware of the raft of risks involved with cosmetic procedures and just how disastrous the complications can be.

“The deterioration in ethical practice is of grave concern to myself and my Specialist Plastic Surgeon colleagues.  We applaud the NSW Health Minister for initiating a Parliamentary Inquiry aimed at improving patient safety standards in the cosmetic surgery industry.

“These situations should not be happening in Australia.  Change is desperately needed now to drive these unethical and dangerous operators out of the profession before more lives are damaged, Dr Somia said.

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Media contact: Julia Power, National PR and Marketing Manager, 0414 276 990

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