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The Ugly Side of Cosmetic Surgery

The cosmetic surgery industry thrives by giving its customers the hope that they can improve and enhance their looks and reverse the signs of ageing. There are litany of procedures and products which promise to help the customer achieve the desired changes in their appearance.

As in any industry there are different levels of quality, skill, expertise and therefore outcomes. Customers who opt for the more expensive options will frequently seek treatment with a plastic surgeon. Those with less money tend to turn to cosmetic surgeons and beauty salons.

We generally accept that if a consumer spends more money that they end up with a better-quality product, however in the context of surgery, this idea is harder to justify, particularly where a person is physically harmed in a cosmetic surgery procedure.

What is a plastic surgeon?

A plastic surgeon an accredited specialist doctor who has been trained and qualified to perform invasive reconstructive and cosmetic plastic procedures in hospitals. The title of ‘Plastic Surgeon’ is reserved for those who have undertaken the training and been accepted into the college. The training typically takes another seven years after the basic medical degree has been completed.

Plastic surgeons perform surgeries on people injured in accidents they also assist burns victims as well as those seeking cosmetic surgery.

What is a cosmetic surgeon?

The title cosmetic ‘surgeon’ is misleading. A cosmetic surgeon is not required to do any additional surgical training after the completion of the basic medical degree.

The media have recently run several stories detailing disturbing stories of people who have been maimed by cosmetic surgeons. There have been concerning allegations about poor hygiene, out of date medication, inappropriate storing of human tissue, surgery taking place outside a hospital and inappropriate anaesthesia together with poor aesthetic outcomes.

Patients should not have to accept be placed in danger by poor surgical practices. Moreover, because these procedures often occur outside a hospital setting it is hard for other doctors to become involved to rescue the patient and deal with any complications.

What are the legal options after botched cosmetic surgery?

The legal options which are available to a person who has had cosmetic surgery which has gone wrong are complex. They include suing for damages – that is the costs of future repair surgery, any past and future wage loss, compensation for pain and suffering -including disfigurement and if applicable past and future care. It might also be necessary to make a professional complaint to protect other people from a problematic practitioner.

Does the Consent Form stop a legal action?

The consent form is evidence that a person has agreed to undergo a procedure. A consent form is only part of the consenting process. It is important that a cosmetic surgeon properly warns a patient about the actual risks associated with a procedure.

It is also important to note that just because a material risk arises does not mean that the cosmetic surgeon can hide behind the consent form. Rather the focus will be on how the risk materialised and whether it occurred due to surgical care which was below the requisite standard.

How will a matter be legally investigated?

The medical records will be requested from all treatment providers and reviewed. A discussion will then take place between the injured person and the lawyer, to try and piece together what happened, in order to understand, what went wrong. The medical records are then sent to an expert witness for an opinion on the consenting process and whether there was a lack of due skill and care in carrying out the cosmetic procedure which resulted in the injured person suffering harm.

Do time limits apply?

In NSW time limits do apply to personal injury actions. It is typically three years from the date of injury. However, principles of discoverability often apply. It is important to promptly seek legal advice, even if you are outside the three years, as it is often possible to still bring a claim, provided you are within twelve years from the date of injury. These principles can be complex and the earlier you seek legal advice the better, so you are not precluded from bringing a claim.

Next Steps

At Remedy Law Group we offer an no win no fee service, our first consultation is free and without obligation, we do not charge an investigation fee. We offer expert legal advice from a NSW Law Society’s personal injury accredited specialist (medical negligence).

We recognise that people who have been harmed through a botched cosmetic procedure often feel embarrassed about their injuries and we offer a sympathetic non-judgemental service.

If you have been through cosmetic surgery which has not gone to plan. Get in touch with our friendly, experienced female team.

Jane Bulter – Remedy Law Group