Dozens of the country’s top doctors have backed calls for a crackdown on the scandal-tainted cosmetic surgery industry, with hundreds of submissions to the national medical watchdog as part of a landmark inquiry into patient safety.
More than 800 responses from doctors and patients were received by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) after the regulator opened a sweeping review of the sector, many demanding an end to the unfettered use of social media by practitioners and laws to stop rogue medicos calling themselves “cosmetic surgeons”.
Weak regulation has allowed the billion-dollar industry to flourish for decades, doctors say, with some early data showing up to 20 percent of women who have had breast implants may need surgery to fix up botched procedures.
“Women are being sucked into a vortex of aggressive social media and the use of influencers by cosmetic surgeons to market their services. Women aren’t seen as patients but as commodities,” Professor Anand Deva, head of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Macquarie University, said.
Former Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons president Professor Mark Ashton MB. BS.MD. FRACS Specialist Plastic Surgeon, who sent a joint submission with Deva, said he welcomed the review and hoped it would result in tighter rules for “so-called cosmetic surgeons” and force practitioners to be transparent with “what surgical skills and level of training they have”.
“In the past week alone I’ve seen 10 patients [in my practice] who will need revision surgery to correct botched breast implants where the wrong operation was performed and the correct procedure was not offered the first time,” Ashton said. “It is far too easy for doctors to overstate their training and for patients to think their so-called surgeon is skilled enough when in fact their training may be rudimentary or non-existent.”
Dr Naveen Somia, PhD., FRACS, Specialist Plastic Surgeon immediate past president of ASAPS, said the only way to protect patients from “cosmetic cowboys” is to mandate that all practitioners disclose their AHPRA registration status at consultations, on practitioners websites and social media platforms.
“Research by ASAPS showed 81 per cent of Australians believe that when a practitioner uses the title ‘cosmetic surgeon’, that they are a registered specialist in cosmetic surgery.”
Vice president of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons Dr Nicola Dean said AHPRA should look to ban cosmetic surgeons providing surgery for free to influencers in exchange for free advertising.
“Patients don’t realise the major risks they are taking when going into surgery. The issue of advertising and social media use by practitioners is critical to reducing risk,” Dean said.