The recent 4corners expose was a confronting reminder for the public of why it is so important to do your research when looking for a provider to perform a cosmetic procedure. Whether it is an injection of filler or surgery such as breast augmentation, liposuction and Brazilian butt lifts, the cost of the treatment should never be the main consideration over expertise, experience, ethics and care of the provider as well as the facility in which it is provided. It is disapointing for the cosmetic industry. I am so passionate about that it has been portrayed as one about money, questionable ethics and untrained providers misrepresenting themselves as qualified to perform invasive procedures.
As a plastic surgeon that devotes the majority of my time to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic treatments, I understand that many people want cosmetic procedures to be more accessible and hence, can be lured by price. It is only normal to want to improve yourself, and affordability is important because we all have other financial commitments like mortgages, kids school fees and bills. However, there are some things in life I believe that are worth saving up for to do properly. Cutting corners to save some money may be a bargain if everything goes well but may cost more to fix if it doesn’t go well, or it may not be fixable regardless of how much money one has.
It is so tragic that a young woman lost her life having a breast augmentation using fillers in a beauty clinic in Sydney – something that should never have happened. The person performing the procedure wasn’t licenced by the Australian authorities to do so and she was in a beauty clinic without facilities and staff to come to her aid when things went wrong.
It is tragic that a young woman has gone blind in one eye from filler injections, which may have been reversable had the appropriate management been undertaken expediently. And one can question the judgement, insight and clinical decision making, as well as the expertise of the provider performing the injections in a shopping centre beauty clinic with out a doctor on site.
It is easy to point the finger and criticise but that is not the point of the 4 corners story, nor my blog here. It is about taking measures to improve patient safety, educating the public so they can do their due diligence, ask the right questions and that they are being treated to the highest standard of care.
As a plastic surgeon, I often get criticised for charging more premium prices for services, unlike my cosmetic practitioner counterparts. I think its hard for the public to understand the difference between plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons. As a plastic surgeon, I have had to do over 10 years of training and experience after obtaining my medical degree, and that has included multiple written and clinical exams about anatomy, surgery, pathology, at least 10000 hours of study, over 5000 operations and multiple interviews and research requirements to qualify with the Fellowship for the Royal Australasian College of surgeons. And my training was not of just one type of surgery, the principles of plastic and reconstructive surgery enable me to not only perform the breast augmentation for example, but also manage potential complications and reconstruct defects where required. I’m not saying cosmetic surgeons are not skilled to do what they do, as I am sure some are very experienced, but they haven’t had the formal surgical training by the peak body of surgical training in Australia, The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and they are not skilled in managing complications, often needing to refer complications on.
As was revealed in the recent story, some “cosmetic surgeons” did a 2-day course in breast augmentation and then were operating on women who thought they were qualified. It is training experience, clinical judgement, insight, attention to detail, patient care and peace of mind that I would argue an experienced plastic surgeon, can provide to their patients that one cannot put a price on how valuable it is.
I’m not saying we don’t get complications. Everyone who is performing surgery and injectables has complications, but I know we do everything we know possible to mitigate these risks and for patients who are not appropriate for surgery or treatments, we turn away, not because we cannot perform them, but because our conscious tells us it won’t help them. I take great pride in what I do as a plastic surgeon and leading a team of experienced and caring plastic surgeons, nurses and dermal therapist who make a positive difference to people’s lives every day. The ability to help everyday men and women to feel comfortable in their skin and bodies, to feel confident that they can do what they thought was not possible and to discover self-worth, is so empowering and life changing. The cosmetic industry has the potential to change people’s lives and I believe the recent 4corners stories of courage, these people that chose to come forward and speak and to be a catalyst for change, is a great starting point.