Laws regulating cosmetic surgery advertising must be strengthened to protect consumers

The current laws regulating the advertising of cosmetic surgery are not sufficient to ensure public safety, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“The regulation of cosmetic surgery has not kept pace with the huge growth in the industry,” said Ms Ngaire Watson, barrister and medical law spokesperson for the ALA. “Even before the Four Corners expose this week, we had been working to develop recommendations for government to try to address this serious problem.

“The rules need to be tightened and the regulator must take a proactive role in monitoring compliance and ensuring advertising that breaches the guidelines is quickly removed.

“As a start, it must be mandatory for practitioners to clearly identify their qualifications and particularly whether or not they are a specialist plastic surgeon in all marketing material.”

The ALA is preparing a policy document outlining key recommendations for changing the laws to improve the safety of people considering cosmetic surgery. These recommendations will be sent directly to all health ministers in Australia in coming weeks.

“Our recommendations go beyond the changes that have been already been made in the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Amendment Bill 2021. While making some improvements, this Bill does not go far enough to protect patients,” said Ms Watson.

“Lawyers are very concerned about the increasing numbers of people who are injured as a result of elective procedures. So many times, these individuals have been strongly influenced by advertising, primarily on social media, and have not made well-informed decisions.

“Too many people who seek legal assistance after botched surgery are surprised to find that the ‘cosmetic surgeon’ they have consulted has no recognised surgical qualifications, and they have often not fully understood the risks of the procedure they have undertaken.

“Lawyers regularly see clients who have suffered terrible complications following surgery by insufficiently qualified and skilled medical practitioners. There appears to be a correlation between the surgical outcomes and the training and qualifications of the medical practitioner.

“Laws need to be put in place urgently to ensure the safety of cosmetic surgery consumers.”

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