Recent years have seen a massive increase in the number of people having cosmetic surgery. TV programmes like Extreme Makeover with dramatic outcomes have clearly contributed to this trend.
But cosmetic surgery is no less risky than any other surgery.
I know that sounds obvious but it is tempting to think that it can be an answer to many problems with little danger. But any surgery involves cutting open the body and that carries big risks. These risks should always be fully explained to the patients.
This is demonstrated by the tragic case of Gary Cooper. He was a family man who was desperate to lose weight. He underwent gastric by-pass surgery in Manchester under the impression that it was a straightforward procedure and that he would be in and out in a matter of days. He had his operation and was indeed sent home. He quickly became very ill and died within days. He had suffered a leak at the site of the operation.
The NHS Trust admitted that the standard of care that he received was unacceptable.
His family was yesterday awarded a six figure sum in damages.
This seems to have been a combination of a failure to explain the risks and to then carry out proper checks before he was sent home.
Surgery can only take place with a patient’s consent. That consent can only be given if the patient knows what is involved including the risk of injury. In a case where the surgery is life saving then the patient will probably agree to face the risk. But the less essential the surgery the greater the need to ensure that patients know what can go wrong. Sadly that didn’t happen with Mr Cooper resulting in tragic consequences.
It should also not be forgotten that with the proposed cuts to Legal Aid, cases like this will be much harder to pursue.