Cosmetic Surgery Needs a Facelift

Posted by Kelsey Tedeschi on Fri, Jan 29, 2016  
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Lax laws of cosmetic surgery make it a multimillion dollar industry that keeps booming despite frequent medical malpractice cases and a growing number of dissatisfied patients. In a frantic bid to stay young and beautiful – and against our better judgment – we opt for a cut-price nip and tuck, performed by unauthorized surgeons in high-volume clinics. With a never-ending assembly line of patients, a cosmetic procedure becomes a sought after commodity – and the sale is on.


Regrettably, this corporate model of medical care was only made easier by inconsistent health care laws and regulations, that instead of offering us protection and ultimate patient safety, turned out to be our greatest enemy. So, what exactly is wrong with current health laws?


Lack of Uniformity in Health Laws


According to USA Today, less than half of US states require licensing or accreditation of medical offices where surgery is performed. Additionally, existing health standards and regulations are not comprehensive enough and vary greatly across the States. These fluctuating levels of regulation mean that your next provider of cosmetic treatment could be a physician or obstetrician who has simply branched into more lucrative medical procedures. The phenomenon, that has become known as a “practice drift”, sees an ever increasing number of doctors expanding unrelated practices, because they are simply driven by more lucrative prospects. And more often than not, laws controlling plastic surgery do not prevent them from doing so.


Profits over Safety


Thus, people seeking to improve their physical appearance end up being treated by doctors who have not undergone the proper training needed to carry out plastic surgery procedures. Simply bypassing the laws, unqualified surgeons and basic general practitioners perform anything from face lifts and tummy tucks to more complex cosmetic procedures, such as breast implants and liposuction – at discount prices. No wonder such dubious practice sometimes comes with disastrous consequences. Victims of botched cosmetic surgery report excruciating pain, disfigurement and disability.


Higher Prices, Tighter Rules


Most shockingly of all, no shortage of patients is in sight. With aggressive marketing strategies and a growing popularity of cosmetic surgery, unqualified doctors working in medi-spas and unlicensed cosmetic clinics usually offer competitive pricing and no waiting time. Surely, choosing cut-price over board-certified is unrealistic and naive to say the least. Although a lower price does not necessarily imply lower patient safety standards, less expensive cosmetic surgical procedures are simply not worth the risk.


Board-Certified vs. Unaccredited


While accredited and licensed facilities must adhere to strict procedures and comply with specific cosmetic surgery safety standards, the same rules do not always apply to medispas and office-based surgery facilities, which are mostly unregulated and take advantage of the existing loopholes. They are not legally bound to conduct specific checks regarding the quality of service as long as the patient is not put under general anesthesia. Naturally, few standards, no board-certified anesthesiologist and no inspection can significantly lower the price of a surgical procedure and increase the risk.


On the other hand, hospitals and licensed facilities are staffed by board-certified plastic surgeons that are prohibited from practicing outside of their specialties. Such doctors are licensed by the states in which they offer their medical services. Becoming certified by one of the 24 boards in the US means that you have completed a residency training program and met all the necessary professional standards. On the downside, even board-certified surgeons are not required to report mistakes or complications, and disciplining doctors for misconduct is still the exception rather than the rule.


Making Intelligent Choices


In order to avoid falling victim to unethical surgical procedures, proper education on the matter might make a big difference. We need to make sure that our plastic surgeon is a member of the national body or a professional membership organization. The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) is one of the world's leading professional organizations that helps patients make more informed choices and find the highly-qualified and board-certified plastic surgeon. Its website offers a simple search tool that allows browsing through a database of more than 2.600 registered surgeons. ASAPS members pledge to promote safe practice of aesthetic plastic surgery, while maintaining the highest standards of ethical conduct.


The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is a global institution that represents 94% of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the US. The society advocates patient safety and requires its members to work in accredited facilities, as well as to regularly attend medical education courses. It also provides an online search tool with a current listing of ASPS members that are qualified and highly skilled.


Your prospective plastic surgeon should also be a member of International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS). ISAPS is a worldwide organization created by the United Nations, whose members are thoroughly screened and required to follow strict medical practices and protocols.


Commercialization of Medical Services


Amid surgical industry boom and deceptive claims in glossy cosmetic advertizing, it is time for the plastic surgery laws to go under the knife. In order to avoid poor medical outcomes and protect future patients against potentially harmful medical practices, we need global changes in legislation. Our government has to introduce tougher controls and create a more uniform health policy.


In an age of unrealistic beauty ideals and an abundance of heavily publicized cosmetic procedures offering stunning results, cosmetic surgery needs to remain fundamentally medical. Treating it as a commercial product is demeaning and an insult to the profession.


Furthermore, cosmetic procedures fall into the category of elective surgery, meaning it is a non-emergency surgical procedure and does not need to be done at a particular time. Self-referrals to unregistered clinics and physicians are on the rise, which is why it is essential that we protect vulnerable patients and prevent them from making ill-advised decisions.


While it is obvious that the gaping differences in state laws regulating health care and patient safety cannot be mended overnight, we should aim at changing public perception of cosmetic surgery in a way that does not underestimate the complexity of the specialty and responsibility of the profession.



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