Saturday, August 2, 2008

Surgeons, doctors in cosmetic face-off

A pledge by health ministers to develop national standards on cosmetic surgery is likely to be derailed by the long-running turf war between plastic surgeons and self-styled cosmetic surgeons.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon announced last month that her department would look into toughening the laws surrounding the industry, which has come under fire following horror stories of botched operations and the deaths of two young women following liposuction.

Plastic surgeons say recent NSW legislation to clamp down on advertising, such as fake before and after shots, and a mandatory cooling-off period for people under 18, does not go far enough.

But the industry is unlikely to agree on the clarification of titles such as "cosmetic surgeon" and "specialist" to clear up the confusion among consumers, with both sides refusing to give ground in the feud that has been running since 1999.

Dr Norman Olbourne from the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons says any doctor with a basic medical degree should not be able to call him or herself a cosmetic surgeon or specialist.

He called on NSW to adopt Queensland's approach, in which the word "surgeon" can only be used by fellows of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, who have undertaken eight years of postgraduate surgical training.

They are banned from performing cosmetic surgery on under 18s.

While rivals, including the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery, agree on the need to rid the industry of "grandiose titles [that] mean nothing more than a paid subscription fee", they dispute the college of surgeons' assertion that it is the only group qualified to perform cosmetic surgery.

"Our college provides appropriate training in cosmetic surgery whereas plastic surgeons are trained in the public system, where there [are] no cosmetic patients to give adequate training," ACCS chief executive John Flynn said.

"Cosmetic surgery is a distinct and separate speciality."

At the Australian Health Ministers' Conference last month, South Australian Health Minister John Hill urged his state and federal colleagues to consider a number of cosmetic surgery regulations.

They included a surgery ban on under 18s, that a patient's first consultation be with a medical practitioner rather than a "commission-rewarded lay adviser", a psychological assessment be done of a patient's suitability for cosmetic surgery and mandatory assessment by two doctors.

Source: The Sun-Herald

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