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Cosmetic surgery industry in need a nip and tuck to close up loopholes and tighten regulation

Posted on Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Cosmetic surgery regulation

The Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS) Vice President and Plastic Surgeon reflects on the editorial in Saturday’s Telegraph on 23 September and the current state of play of the cosmetic surgery sector.

In Australia, a Surgeon is understood to indicate a person with substantial surgical training in addition to their basic Medical Degree.  Yet, as the Saturday Telegraph revealed, we have Medical Graduates calling themselves Cosmetic Surgeons after completing a mere half a day course in breast enhancements and Botox.  Some of these self-described Cosmetic Surgeons include individuals who have failed their GP exams and hold only elementary medical school degrees.

Compare this to the Plastic Surgeons who undergo an additional eight to 12 years of surgical training in addition to their basic medical degree and the situation looks scary.  This confounding state, says the Saturday Telegraph editorial is due to a ‘legal loophole’ that allows anyone with a basic medical degree to call themselves a Cosmetic Surgeon.

This deliberate lowering of cosmetic surgery standards, can and has, resulted in devastating complications.  As Australians were horrified to discover a number of frightening incidents where young healthy patients who went in for a quick breast implant procedure had to be rushed to Intensive Care following life threatening complications on the operating table.

Should someone who goes to the park on a Saturday morning to throw a ball around with mates be entitled to say he plays rugby league?  Or better yet, that he is of a standard similar to an NRL player?  Or likewise, someone who journals, can they now claim they are an author?  Surely that title should be reserved for someone who has a book that’s been published and made available in bookstores?

It is important for the public to be aware that the mandatory Australian qualifications for Surgeons is to be a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS).  The letters FRACS however represents more than a surgical qualification, it assures the public that the Surgeon is trained to the highest Australian Standards and offers a guarantee of surgical safety.

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons is the only body recognised by the Australian Medical Council (AMC) to train Surgeons in Australia.  The AMC is an Independent national standards body for medical education and training and the AMC’s purpose is to ensure that the standards of education, training and assessment of the medical profession promote and protect the health of the Australian community.  You can find out more by visiting their website www.amc.org.au.

In Australia, if you don’t have the FRACS after your name you should not be able to call yourself a Surgeon. You are not recognised as a Surgeon by Medicare Australia or the Medical Board of Australia and you cannot register yourself as a Surgeon with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).  To check if your surgeon has current registration you can visit their website www.ahpra.gov.au.

The Saturday Telegraph editorial mentions a ‘legal loophole’ that allows anyone with a basic medical degree to call themselves a Cosmetic Surgeon.  The title or term Cosmetic Surgeon is neither an official term nor a title recognised by the AHPRA or the AMC for purposes of medical registration.  The term Cosmetic Surgeon does not represent a specialist qualification the way the others do.  For example terms such as Neurosurgeon, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Orthopaedic Surgeon or Plastic Surgeon represent a Surgeon who has undergone additional eight to 12 years of specialist qualification and training and has obtained the FRACS.  So when the unsuspecting public is confronted with the term ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’ they interpret this in the same way as they would do a Neurosurgeon or a Cardiac Surgeon or a Plastic Surgeon.

According to AHPRA there are nine official surgical specialities in Australia, and hence, nine official protected titles for Surgeons.  The term Specialist Plastic Surgeon is a title that is recognised and protected by AHPRA and can only be used by a Plastic Surgeon who has completed additional plastic surgery training under the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and has passed the necessary exams and assessments and obtained the FRACS.

The cosmetic surgery industry is in need a nip and tuck to close up loopholes and tighten regulation and to afford those who’ve achieved the highest level of surgical qualification in the country with the authority they so rightly deserve by preserving the title of Surgeon to those who have earned that right.  This will also ensure members of the public know the true qualifications of ‘Surgeons’.

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