The national medical regulator has announced a sweeping review of the multibillion-dollar cosmetic surgery industry, acknowledging that a profit-driven culture had led to dangerous practices that sparked widespread concerns about patient safety.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) said the external review into the booming industry, which will be led by the outgoing Queensland Health Ombudsman Andrew Brown, will look at ways to better protect patients, as well as examining the use of social media by some cosmetic surgeons to promote their services.
It follows a joint investigation by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the ABC’s Four Corners which uncovered a litany of disturbing practices at a network of clinics run by celebrity cosmetic surgeon Dr Daniel Lanzer, including allegations of serious hygiene and safety breaches and botched surgeries that left some patients in extreme pain.
Dr Lanzer, who has an extensive presence on television and social media, last month gave a legally enforceable undertaking to stop practising medicine in Australia while AHPRA completes an investigation. His senior associate Dr Daniel Aronov, who is the most followed cosmetic surgeon in the world on TikTok with more than 13 million followers, was banned from practising cosmetic surgery earlier this week.
AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher said the inquiry was triggered by the joint media investigation. “Obviously we were very concerned by the material that was broadcast on Four Corners and although some of that was known to us and were matters we were actively investigating, there was an awful lot of information we didn’t know.”
The media investigation revealed audio recordings of Dr Lanzer telling staff to never admit mistakes to patients. “You do not own up to nothing! Zero! … Never, ever, ever, ever own up to anything”. Dr Lanzer also told staff to never send a patient to a GP or hospital. Photos were obtained that appeared to show human fat stored in fridges and freezers, and decanted syringes of filler with masking tape. Communications showed a nurse instructing co-workers to use expired medication, and fill in blank signed prescriptions, and other evidence that Google reviews were being doctored.