Hudgell solicitors are backing news that new regulations will soon be introduced to combat the irresponsible marketing of cosmetic surgery procedures. Earlier this month, the General Medical Council (GMC) released a statement revealing that they would finally be imposing guidelines on the funding and marketing of cosmetic surgery. The changes, expected in the next few months, will see some doctors scrutinised for the way they market their products to potential patients and the way some procedures are funded.
The move comes after the recent wave of criticism aimed at the crowdfunding website, Myfreeimplants.com. The site allows women to set up profiles, offering pictures and videos in return for donations towards their cosmetic procedures. The website, which has been described as ‘degrading’, ‘outrageous’ and ‘inappropriate”, has been around since 2005 but has seen a recent boost in member numbers. 284 British women have successfully paid for surgery since the site was launched, and £168,000 was raised by British women in 2015 alone.
The BAAPS (British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons), who represent and govern over 200 cosmetic surgeons, slammed the ethics of the website. BAAPS President, Rajiv Grover, stated:
“Surgeons cannot vouch for where patients obtain the funds to proceed with surgery, however, any member who knowingly performed surgeries for MyFreeImplants.com would be breaking the Association’s code of conduct, and would face expulsion”.
Grover’s rhetoric is very much in line with that of the GMC, which has been increasingly critical of industry practices over the past year. Last March, a mandatory ‘cool-off period’ was proposed to prevent patients from feeling railroaded into procedures. As well as that, this Spring, cosmetic surgery professionals will be able to apply for official certification from the Royal College of Surgeons (RCM). Over the past few years the RCM have been busy working with patients, surgeons and others in the industry to make sure it becomes more rigorously regulated.
A relaxed attitude towards the commercialisation of elective surgery is dangerous. It shouldn’t be forgotten that these are medical procedures and, as such, should be treated with the same care as any non-elective procedure. Tens of thousands of patients elect to have surgery every year in the UK. Minimally invasive procedures, such as Botox, have become commonplace (6.7 million in 2014), with some practices even offering ‘lunch break’ sessions. Two for one offers and referral bonuses are two more common tactics that some practices use to get people through the door.
The way practices market their services with deals like this is still largely unregulated, but it appears it will soon be party to a similar style of regulation to that of the alcohol or gambling industries. We can still only speculate as to what these guidelines will be, but there is an obvious focus on improving the practices and their surgeons’ duty of care.
A clampdown on inappropriate offers and discounts, and a more thorough vetting process on how surgery is funded would be a step in the right direction. Hopefully changes like this will mean many patients aren’t persuaded to make irreversible decisions because of time sensitive offers or for rewards, such as referral fees. Electing to have surgery you might have second thoughts about in future can have serious repercussions, and patients can claim against surgeons if they believe they’ve failed to obtain informed consent.
The effects of unwanted surgery are often prohibitively expensive to be rectified, or can never be resolved. Most of the time, surgery is carried out professionally and successfully but, unfortunately, sometimes things do go wrong. Whether this is the result of negligence or ineffective aftercare, all surgeons have a responsibility to provide high quality and ethical service to their patients. This duty of care is vital and should be enforced throughout the customer’s entire cosmetic surgery journey, spanning from advertising billboards to the operating theatre.