I have to confess that I would not be the best patient in the world – especially if surgery was involved.
It is probably due to having been involved in cases over the last twenty years in which I have come across most of the things that can go wrong! So you are unlikely to find me in any theatre other than one where a far more harmless drama unfolds, unless it is absolutely necessary.
But seriously, surgery is serious business. Things can go wrong, even with the greatest of care in the world. Patients should be fully aware of the risks involved. Surgery does not become less risky just because it is described as ‘cosmetic’. The use of invasive treatment to improve appearance has become big business over the last few years. As a result there has been a bigger emphasis on the ‘sale’ than on the patients’ safety. Those patients include the most vulnerable, who are desperate to improve their ‘look’.
It is not uncommon for somebody to be seen by a sales rep rather than a doctor prior to agreeing to a procedure. There are even reports of deals being offered to encourage surgery including buy one get one free. This scandal has been highlighted over the last year by the PIP implants involving thousands of women in the UK who were given potentially faulty breast implants which carry a high risk of rupture.
It is look as though action is finally on the horizon following yesterday’s publication of a review of the industry –
Whilst surgery has to be carried out by a doctor there are many other procedures which do not and which still carry risks. In addition patients who will do anything to achieve what they believe will be a better appearance, are consenting to procedures without being fully aware of the dangers. Two important recommendations are for a two stage consent process to soften any sales pitch and the fairly obvious requirement that a person be seen by a doctor and not a salesperson.
The well known GP Rosemary Leonard correctly spells out the problem – “Surgery – indeed any cosmetic intervention – is a serious step and a patient must be told about the immediate side-effects after surgery as well as any potential long-term effects on their health."
These suggestions will certainly assist. But I suspect that far tighter regulation will be required. It is a sector which seems to have gone out of control. I have seen the damage that can be done when surgery goes wrong or when expectations are falsely raised. It is not good enough to be able to sue somebody after the event. The damage is done and money is little comfort.
I hope that this report is beginning of the end of the end of surgery as part of a ‘cosmetic industry’.