Cosmetic surgery under review

It may have taken a scandal, but the government has finally decided to take a look at the murky business of cosmetic surgery. That’s good news for all of us, from people contemplating cosmetic repair after cancer surgery, to women who decide to spend their hard-earned cash on holding back the years, to those of us who would never contemplate going under the knife, but as tax-payers have been picking up the tab when other people’s private cosmetic surgery goes wrong.

Everyone has the right to assume that, if they buy a cosmetic procedure, it will (a) use safe, approved products (b) reach statutory minimum standards and (c) be carried out by someone qualified to do the work. And that if something goes wrong, the company that carried out the work will correct it at no extra cost. It’s an indictment of the industry that this has not been the case.

The review, headed by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS, will look into what he describes as the ‘pretty grubby’ practices of some parts of the industry. These include marketing practices more suited to the supermarket than the clinic, such as two procedures for the price of one, or time-limited discounts that put pressure on people to make decisions about major surgery without due consideration.

The review also asks whether cosmetic surgery advertising should be more tightly regulated. I’d love to see the back of the manipulative¬†advertising that bombards women in particular, fostering feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction. It seems odd that pharmaceutical companies are banned from advertising prescription-only medicines directly to consumers, but surgeons are free to fill the pages of glossy magazines with adverts pushing invasive and major surgery.

And it’s not just surgery being reviewed. Dermal fillers and botox injections are being widely promoted and used as beauty products, despite a lack of evidence about their safety and potential long-term side effects. Dermal peels can have drastic effects, and laser hair removal is a costly and time-consuming process. There is little effective regulation around any of these procedures.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the review can read the call for evidence and contribute their views via the Department of Health website:


  1. Not sure about the statistics regarding revision cosmetic surgery costing tax payers, since cosmetic surgical procedures are not covered by private insurance companies, nor medicaid or medicare. Hell, they often won’t cover reconstructive plastic surgery procedures for children born with facial deformities. You will be happy to know that some States, such as Florida, have passed legislation to regulate plastic surgery advertising (Truth in Medical Marketing Act). I agree the advertising in this industry has become a problem. Organizations such as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery have very strict ethical guidelines for their members. Unfortunately, not all physicians performing plastic surgical procedures are “real” plastic surgeons and follow such ethics. I have some information you may find helpful to your readers on my web site and blog:

  2. I don’t know how cosmetic surgery affects US taxpayers – my blog is about the effect on the UK’s NHS, which tends to end up paying for revision if private procedures go wrong.

  3. I agree. Cosmetic surgery is an industry that has been too loosely regulated in the past. You don’t have to look far to find someone that experienced a cosmetic surgery nightmare. The public deserves higher standards and tighter regulations.

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