What you must know about cosmetic surgery

In a motherinc poll we discovered an amazing 50 per cent of women did not know many cosmetic surgery procedures were performed by non-certified practitioners

Any registered doctor can perform cosmetic surgery and they do not even need to have surgical training qualifications.

Furthermore, 46 per cent did not know there was a governing body in Australia where they could check the credentials of their practitioner before opting for a procedure.

The figures are particularly startling in view of the fact 68 per cent of women were open to the prospect of cosmetic surgery in the future and more than 95 would support a friend's decision to have a procedure.

Dr Bryan Mendelson, president of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, says the industry in almost totally unregulated.

"It's a free-for-all," Dr Mendelson says. "The public are being deluded in a way because they have great faith in the medical practitioners in this country and for good reason.

"But there are those on the fringe that are giving the industry a bad name because they do not have the level of training to be performing some of the procedures they are performing. Using the word 'surgeon' by those who have not been properly trained represents a level of deception, not on a technical level, but by public implication. The public presume that if you call yourself a cosmetic surgeon, you are a highly skilled specialist."

Dr Mendelson says the problem began in 1996 with the move to de-regulate the medical industry in Australia and allow doctors to advertise. Before this, a doctor could advertise their ability but not their expertise.

"It became very easy for a doctor to jump on the bandwagon," Dr Mendelson says. "I've known of some doctors who started doing botox, then moved onto liposuction, then did a weekend course to call themselves a cosmetic surgeon.

Dr Tim Papadopoulos, a Sydney plastic surgeon and member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons, the peak body for plastic surgeons in the country, said the industry needs regulation to stamp out inexperienced and unskilled practitioners from operating.

"I would like to see an independent body come along and regulate the industry to make everyone accountable and to set up some kind of standard," he said. "At the moment that does not exist in Australia.

"In the past decade there has been a massive growth in the number of cosmetic procedures carried out due largely to media coverage and shows like Extreme Makeover. The other major factor affecting the industry is that all doctors are allowed to advertise cosmetic surgery services. And because the procedures are so lucrative a lot of doctors have put up their hand to say "I can do that" but there is no one body watching over them, regulating them or asking them what their level of experience or skill is.

"The way the situation stands at the moment, a doctor can go off and do a weekend seminar and call himself a cosmetic surgeon."

While all medical practitioners are legally able to practise cosmetic procedures, plastic surgeons in Australia need to have undertaken an extra eight to 10 years specialist training on top of their medical degree to call themselves a plastic surgeon.

If you are thinking of having a procedure, here are some tips you should consider first:


  • Find a reputable surgeon by talking with your GP, another specialist or check with the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons who can provide you with a list of surgeons in your state. Get more than one surgeosn name by shopping around.

  • Check your surgeons credentials and qualificationa. If your surgeon has been certified by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons he will have the letters FRACS following his name. Check how much relevant training and experience your surgeon has.

  • Have an initial consultation with your short-listed surgeons before committing to any procedure.