For many, undergoing plastic surgery is thought to be the start of a new life; driven by the desire for an improved appearance. For most this turns out to be the case, but for too many the results are very different. Examples of botched cosmetic surgery hit the press on a weekly basis, as do the numbers of patients contacting clinical negligence lawyers when things go wrong.
For many years now there have been campaigns to tighten the regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry (read our earlier blog). Many of the horror stories stem from the fact that some surgeons have not had any specialist training in the field and carry out cosmetic procedures in their spare time. Some procedures don’t even need to be carried out by a doctor, but are frequently performed by unqualified staff such as less invasive procedures like botox injections. Even if you do find a specialist, there is no obligation for them to be insured and patients often find that when things go wrong and they have grounds to bring a negligence claim, there is no insurance to pay out any compensation nor fund the treatment to repair the damage.
In an attempt to protect patient safety the Royal College of Surgeons has produced a checklist that everyone should follow if they are considering cosmetic surgery. A spokesperson for the Royal College has said
The vast majority of cosmetic surgery is carried out in the private sector and many people do not realise that the law currently allows any qualified doctor – surgeon or otherwise – to perform cosmetic surgery, without undertaking additional training or qualifications … our advice is that if you are thinking of having some kind of work done, make sure you consult a surgeon who is trained and experienced in the procedure you are considering”.
The guidance urges patients to ask questions about the training that the surgeon has undergone, prove that they are insured and be clear about the recovery phase and what could go wrong as a part of the surgery. It is all about patient’s making a fully informed choice about their treatment, just as they have come to expect from the NHS.
The checklist produced by the RCS asks all patients to think carefully before agreeing to undergo treatment and to be wary of surgeons who try and rush you into a decision. It suggests you should always:
- Meet the surgeon face to face and select one from the General Medical Council’s specialist register for the surgery you wish to have;
- Find out about all possible costs, including the cost of putting things right in case they go wrong. Remember, not every mistake will be negligent as there are many recognised complications of surgery, so you might have to pay for a revision even if it is not the surgeon’s fault;
- Don’t assume what the treatment might be. Tell your surgeon what you want to change and why and consider all possible options with them;
- Make sure you know how long your recovery will be and what to expect, and what complications are possible. Many negligence claims occur because patients were not adequately advised on how long their recovery could be and the difficulties they would have in their daily lives during that time.
If you or anyone you know has concerns about a cosmetic surgery procedure that may have gone wrong, speak to one of our specialist lawyers on 0800 316 8892, or make an enquiry online.