Cosmetic surgery in Britain under fire for misleading women

The cosmetic surgery industry has come under fire in Britain from plastic surgeons.

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) says they are "increasingly concerned" with regard to some of the standards in the advertising of popular cosmetic procedures.

According to the BAAPS misleading sales techniques are being used which create unrealistic expectations.

BAAPS says breast augmentation is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures and the use of models with "anatomically impossible" breasts and offers of 'lunchtime facelifts' which cannot be done, falsely raises expectations in what are often young and vulnerable women.

Experts say many procedures advertised such as 'lunchtime facelifts' and discount five-in-one operations are at best ineffective and at worst dangerous as the risks of multiple operations, increase the risks of infection.

Delegates at the BAAPS annual conference were shown a range of adverts with dubious marketing practices, such as offering financial incentives to undergo surgery.

Adverts were shown including a 'misleading' before-and-after sequence promoting breast implants and others, usually in women's magazines, giving patients unrealistic expectations and encouraging them to make snap decisions about breast enlargements, tummy tucks and liposuction without proper consultation.

BAAPS president Dr. Douglas McGeorge says one offered a £250 discount to potential customers as an incentive to have the surgery quickly and he says there is concern that younger, vulnerable readers of popular magazines are being targeted very heavily.

BAAPS represents around one third of cosmetic surgeons in the UK but is not a regulatory body and so has no powers to take action against clinics.

BAAPS is about to launch its own advertising campaign to promote better choices about where people should have surgery.

Dr. McGeorge, a consultant plastic surgeon, says surgery is a serious undertaking which requires realistic expectations and should only proceed after proper consultation with a reputable and properly qualified clinician in an appropriate clinical setting.

Dr. McGeorge says it is very difficult to regulate these adverts.

While many clinics have signed up to the Independent Healthcare Authority's code of practice, which states marketing materials should be designed to safeguard patients from unrealistic expectations and should use real life models, membership is a voluntary matter and is often flouted.

Adam Searle, a former president of the organisation, says plastic surgery, when used well, is the most powerful tool to improve patients' well-being but it should not be used just to make money and the patient should benefit and not the surgeon.

A spokesman for the Advertising Standards Authority said they supported any attempts by organisations to promote codes of good advertising practice and agrees that claiming breast enlargement was 'easy' and without risk was irresponsible.

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