March 1, 2024

Australia’s cosmetic surgery industry under attack in the media

The multi-billion dollar cosmetic surgery industry in Australia has come under attack from the media. A series of investigations by The Age, Four Corners and 60 Minutes have uncovered horror stories about shonky operators and operations which left patients disfigured and in pain. Pressure is growing for the Commonwealth government to call a Royal Commission to investigate the industry after a succession of scandals.

Allan Fels, the former head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, one of the country’s most prominent public servants, wrote in The Age that the industry needs shock therapy and should be shut down temporarily:

The only way to get the large and urgent change needed to protect the public from serious injuries is for health ministers and the national regulator (AHPRA) to close down the entire industry for a period of three to six months. This would achieve real change quickly and help overcome the lethargy shown by all involved – practitioners, regulators, politicians – in dealing with the continuing dangers to consumers arising from current widespread dangerous malpractices.

Only when the government believes that there has been substantial change should the industry be reopened, he says. “Anything less will lead to serious harm and distress to consumers.”

Doctors involved in the industry have tried to bully critics into silence. Dr Fels writes:

… they are in the habit of trying to intimidate public commentators on the industry, including at times when they might appear before public inquiries. I myself received strong legal threats of defamation action seeking damages for a single article in this newspaper a few months ago, from the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery and Medicine.

Cosmetic surgery is being sold as a consumer product:

Its advocates trivialise the nature of the surgical work being done with language such as “tummy tucks”, “Brazilian butt-lift” and “saddlebags” procedures. Moreover, any doctor can practise cosmetic surgery with minimal special training requirements.