Doctors set for strict cosmetic surgeon definitions under new rules

“Australians deserve to have confidence in the safety and quality of the cosmetic surgery industry and the changes that all health ministers have agreed on will provide that certainty.”

A new national cosmetic surgery complaints hotline has already received 77 calls, with 15 investigations launched following complaints from patients or doctors.

Plastic surgeon and professor of surgery at the University of Melbourne Mark Ashton said legal changes to stop unqualified doctors calling themselves cosmetic surgeons marked the first step in protecting the public.

“For far too long, medical practitioners who have done as little as a weekend course have been able to masquerade as fully trained surgeons and call themselves cosmetic surgeons to beguile and deceive unsuspecting patients,” he said.

“It has been a battle for more than 25 years to get the government to recognise surgical training is important to patient safety.”

Queensland is the host jurisdiction for the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, which governs 800,000 medical professionals across the country.

A spokesman for Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the state was aiming to pass the legal changes agreed by health ministers as quickly as possible in 2023.

Former patient Jackie.

Former patient Jackie. Credit:Eddie Jim

Jackie M, who suffered nerve damage to her face after liposuction by one of Lanzer’s staff, said she hoped laws and regulations would continue to improve.

“As a victim of a GP who misrepresented himself to me as an experienced and accomplished surgeon when he was neither, it is a massive relief that things are moving in the right direction,” she said.

Justin Nixon, a registered nurse who blew the whistle on safety and hygiene issues at celebrity cosmetic surgeon Lanzer’s chain of clinics, said he was relieved.

“Until now, many people had mistakenly assumed that their ‘surgeon’ had adequate training which led to many falling prey to predatory doctors that held themselves out to be qualified surgeons,” he said.

“These reforms are such an important step forward to protect Australians.”

The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons president, associate professor Nicola Dean, said a national law would be a “game-changer” for her organisation’s members and patient safety.

“The statement [by health ministers] outlines a suite of reforms which, when implemented, will set clear standards by defining the skills and qualifications for doctors who perform cosmetic surgery. This is great news for Australians,” she said.


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