Thursday, 30 May, 2024
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Australia put the brakes on cosmetic surgery ‘cowboys’

In the biggest crackdown on Australia’s $1.4bn cosmetic surgery industry, Health Minister Mark Butler and his state counterparts have agreed to sweeping changes focusing on who can call themselves a cosmetic surgeon, limiting surgery to proper accredited facilities and introducing new hygiene and safety standards.

At a meeting on Friday, the Ministers agreed to amend the law so that anyone conducting a cosmetic procedure must be properly qualified, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Under the current law, anyone with a basic medical degree can call themselves a cosmetic surgeon, even though they aren’t registered as specialist surgeons, who receive eight to 12 years of postgraduate surgical training.

The latest decision comes after a series of investigations into the sector over the past 10 months by various media, uncovering a litany of disturbing practices at the clinics of the country’s celebrity cosmetic surgeon Dr Daniel Lanzer. These included allegations of serious hygiene and safety breaches and botched patients in Australia’s highest profile chain of clinics.

Photos were taken of human fat stored in kitchen fridges and whistle-blowers Justin Nixon and Lauren Hewish told of staff taking home human fat in shopping bags to avoid regulator audits.

So-called cosmetic cowboys have been allowed to operate on unsuspecting patients for years, and until now, nothing has happened.

Butler said work to implement the reforms would begin immediately.

“These cosmetic cowboys have been riding unchecked for years, and the previous government simply didn’t act to clean up an industry that has come to resemble the Wild West,” he said.

Former Health Minister Greg Hunt established a review into the use of the term “cosmetic surgeon” in November 2021, after the first investigation by the Herald.

Since then, the paper has received hundreds of emails and calls from patients of cosmetic surgeons sharing stories of septic shock, lacerated livers, disfigured faces and near-death experiences. There has been a class action launched by Maddens Lawyers into the Lanzer clinics, which so far has attracted almost 700 patients. The law firm has opened an investigation into Cosmos Clinic and received more than 120 registrations.

On Thursday, the national health regulator released its first review into patient safety and acknowledged that a profit-driven culture in cosmetic surgery had led to dangerous practices.

Butler and state Health Ministers agreed to adopt all 16 recommendations from the review and said they would fast-track a hotline for victims of botched cosmetic surgery this week.

The Ministers also tasked the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare, which sets standards for accredited hospitals, to create safety and hygiene standards for cosmetic surgery practices and limit surgery to properly accredited facilities.

Australia is one of the highest per capita users of cosmetic surgery in the world, with some 500 000 cosmetic surgery procedures annually.

As part of the crackdown, the Medical Board of Australia will act to better accredit cosmetic surgery providers by adding an area of practice to medical registrations, limit use of testimonials and social media and will report back to the ministers in two months.


Sydney Morning Herald article – Unchecked for years’: Ministers crack down on cosmetic surgery ‘cowboys’ (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Botched botox and the UK’s legislative crackdown on ‘cosmetic cowboysʼ


UK MPs urge regulation of body image surgeries


Botched cosmetic procedures lead to calls for better legislation


Demand for cosmetic surgery continues to grow



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