Michael Saul, Partner at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors, ponders if more needs to be done to educate the public about the dangers of cosmetic surgery
As cosmetic surgery has become increasingly popular in the UK, there has been a marked increase in incidences of cosmetic surgery negligence. Last year, Save Face reported almost 2,000 complaints from patients in regards to a cosmetic procedure they had received – and it is reasonable to suspect there were many more unhappy with their treatment, but unsure where to turn to for help.
With 83% of cosmetic treatments being carried out by practitioners with no medical experience, it is clear that more needs to be done to educate the public about the dangers associated with both invasive surgeries and non-invasive treatments, such a Botox and Dermal filler.
Cosmetic surgery in the UK
The UK cosmetic surgery industry is valued at £3.6 billion and it is predicted that this figure will continue to rise. Despite the size of the industry, the public remains largely uninformed about the checks and processes that should be in place to help patients to ensure they’re receiving the highest levels of care possible.
The accessibility of cosmetic procedures and lack of understanding surrounding how to safely choose a practitioner can result in patients being swayed by financial incentive and unsubstantiated marketing from clinics.
This knowledge gap can be dangerous when it comes to any cosmetic procedure, no matter how minor; but when it comes to major surgery, it can prove to be catastrophic.
While those choosing to undergo a cosmetic procedure are responsible for carrying out their own due diligence to ensure that they are selecting a reputable and qualified surgeon — ideally a registered surgeon working for the NHS — there need to be more stringent guidelines surrounding how cosmetic surgery is advertised.
Patients choosing to go with well-known national clinics may not fully understand that they might not be being operated on by the most reputable or experienced surgeon. Clinics that trade on a brand name, opposed to the reputation of a single surgeon, are more likely to rely on the services of fly-in-fly-out doctors- practitioners who carry out work on a short term basis but are not permanently resident in the UK. This can mean that trust is being placed in a surgeon who resides outside of the UK and may not always be readily available for follow-up appointments or adequate insurance from a UK provider.
In some of the worst cases, this practice of placing profits before patient care has resulted in victims of cosmetic surgery negligence being forced to pay out-of-pocket for corrective procedures or to be seen by another surgeon after fearing something isn’t right.
Without surgery providers taking full responsibility for the physical and emotional wellbeing of their patients, those who have not recovered as expected can be left feeling unclear on how to proceed and where to turn to for support.
The reality is that for many victims of cosmetic surgery negligence, their only choice is to rely on charities or specialist support organisations to help them come to terms with what has happened and understand their rights.
Patients who have suffered as a result of a substandard cosmetic procedure in the UK may be able to pursue a legal case against their surgeon and secure compensation for the suffering caused. This legal recourse can often be one of the only ways patients can secure the funds necessary for corrective procedures or make the necessary adjustments to their lives.
While an imperfect solution, cosmetic negligence solicitors have had noteworthy success in helping victims to secure compensation for their pain and suffering. Something that isn’t always made clear to patients looking for cheaper alternatives is that this level of legal accountability is not available to individuals who have chosen to go abroad for their cosmetic procedures.
Travelling overseas for surgery
Travelling overseas for surgery can appear an attractive prospect for individuals looking to save money. International clinics work closely with UK-based influencers to present their offering in a favourable light, but in reality, choosing to get surgery overseas poses its own unique dangers.
When considering travelling abroad for surgery, it can be hard to know which clinics or doctors to trust. Often having virtual preoperative consultations and only meeting the surgeon in the days leading up to the procedure can place patients at unnecessary risk.
Undergoing a major operation abroad often makes it difficult to know what to do if something goes wrong. Patients are forced to rely on the clinic that performed their procedure for help and when they are unable to meet the duty of care required, people can find themselves unclear on what to do next.
It is also worth noting that undergoing surgery abroad can invalidate a person’s travel insurance, resulting in individuals being forced to pay thousands of pounds just to get home, where they find there is no possibility of legal action against their surgeon or clinic.
The cosmetic surgery industry
It is clear that the cosmetic surgery industry will continue to grow and evolve and as such, much more needs to be done to help those considering cosmetic procedures understand the weight of that decision. With cosmetic surgery promoted and celebrated in popular culture, it is easy to see why some patients are unaware of the risks and what can be done to help protect themselves.