Plastic surgeons call for shake-up of cosmetic surgery in Australia

The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) has called for a ban on cosmetic surgery on teenagers.

ASPS President Dr. Howard Webster says all Australian state governments should following Queensland's policy of banning teenagers from undergoing such procedures as breast augmentation and liposuction.

Dr. Webster says the number of teenage girls demanding breast implants had sharply increased and the ASPS believes at that age women's bodies are still developing and they should not be contemplating any body shape-changing procedure until their growth is complete.

This does not mean that congenital deformities and abnormalities such as cleft lips will not be treated, but is instead aimed at cosmetic surgery procedures deemed unnecessary.

Dr. Webster, a Melbourne plastic surgeon, says Australia should follow France's lead in banning non-surgeons from cosmetic surgical procedures - currently all any doctor needs to do to say they are qualified in liposuction, is a weekend course.

Because cosmetic surgery is not recognised or accredited as specialty by the Australian Medical Council, in almost all of Australia any person with a medical degree can practise as a so-called "cosmetic surgeon" and perform invasive procedures.

Plastic surgery incorporates both reconstructive and cosmetic surgery and the ASPS, which is a professional, non-profit organisation, promotes, develops and advances the practice of Plastic Surgery throughout Australia and aims to provide the highest quality plastic surgery care to all Australians.

A plastic surgeon has had specialist training in that field of medical expertise, is in full-time plastic surgery practice with a minimum of 12 years education and training, 7 of which was undertaken after the completion of medical school.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery demands a minimum of 5 years specialist surgical education and training and practitioners must hold a Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS Plast) awarded by the Australian Medical Council, or its equivalent.

The Australian Medical Council is the only body authorised by the Commonwealth Government to certify all medical training.

The ASPS is authorised by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons to administer post graduate surgical training programs for the specialty of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and also promotes research in the specialty.

While the ASPS is calling for non-surgeons to be banned from such work, the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery, has requested the council recognise cosmetic surgery as a specialty.

The call for a shake-up by the ASPS follows a recent ban by the Queensland Government on cosmetic surgery for anyone under 18 and a three-month "cooling-off period" for teenagers requesting cosmetic work recently introduced in New South Wales.

The demands from the ASPS come at a time when numerous reports have been appeared in the media on botched up cosmetic procedures performed by doctors without the appropriate qualifications, skills and experience.

Details of the mishaps have brought to light how little protection the public has from so-called "cosmetic specialists''.

Plastic Surgery covers a broad scope of practice from procedures to improve one’s aesthetic appearance to reconstructive surgery and it should be remembered that all surgery, cosmetic and reconstructive, whether performed under local or general anaesthetic, in day surgery or in hospitals, can carry serious risk and results cannot be guaranteed.

The ASPS says all patients should be very careful about their choice of surgeon and about their own expectations and also about possible results and motivations in seeking surgery.

Most important says the ASPS is understanding claims from practitioners about academic qualifications, training and experience as well as accepting overly simplistic descriptions of procedures.

At present any doctor, who might not even be a specialist surgeon, is allowed to perform surgery if the patient consents to the operation.

Medicare Australia recognises all ASPS members as specialist plastic surgeons.

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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