A cosmetic surgery injury is more than just an unfavourable outcome. Errors in surgery and cosmetic procedures may result in serious, life-altering injuries that can impact more than the patient’s appearance.
Cosmetic surgery is a billion-dollar business in Australia. Unfortunately, research shows that Australian regulators have failed to keep pace with the cosmetic surgery boom. The lack of regulation puts patients in danger of complications and injuries at the hands of unqualified individuals performing cosmetic procedures in unsuitable environments.
Earlier this year, the Medical Board of Australia took steps to crack down on ‘cosmetic cowboys’ and bad practices within the cosmetic surgery industry by releasing new guidelines for medical practitioners. These guidelines aim to protect the public and set standards for who can perform cosmetic surgery and non-surgical cosmetic procedures, pre-screening requirements for patients, and more.
While we hope the new guidelines will reduce the incidence of cosmetic surgery injury, even qualified practitioners can commit errors resulting in serious harm. Call Henry Carus + Associates at 03 9001 1318 today if you suffered injury due to cosmetic or plastic surgery negligence.
What Is Cosmetic Surgery?
The Medical Board of Australia defines cosmetic surgery as follows:
‘Cosmetic surgery and procedures are operations and other procedures that revise or change the appearance, colour, texture, structure or position of normal bodily features with the dominant purpose of achieving what the patient perceives to be a more desirable appearance.’
Cosmetic surgery is distinct from plastic surgery, which is generally performed to reconstruct a body part damaged by disease or injury. Examples of cosmetic surgery procedures commonly performed in Australia include:
- Face lift
- Rhinoplasty (‘nose job’)
- Blepharoplasty (cosmetic eyelid surgery)
- Breast augmentation
- Abdominoplasty (‘tummy tuck’)
- Brachioplasty (cosmetic ‘arm lift’ surgery)
- Cosmetic genital surgery
The difference between cosmetic surgery and non-surgical cosmetic procedures centres on whether cutting is done beneath the skin. According to the Medical Board of Australia:
‘Non-surgical cosmetic procedures do not involve cutting beneath the skin but may involve piercing the skin.’
Examples of popular non-surgical cosmetic procedures include:
- Botulinum toxin injections (e.g., Botox)
- Dermal fillers
- Laser hair removal and skin resurfacing
- Cryolipolysis (fat freezing)
- Hair transplants
Just because a procedure doesn’t involve cutting beneath the skin doesn’t make it safer. For example, there are multiple reports of patients who suffered irreversible damage to their skin and eyes due to technician errors whilst operating medical lasers for cosmetic and other procedures.
What Is a Cosmetic Surgery Injury?
All medical procedures—surgical or otherwise—carry risks. Doctors and other practitioners have a duty to ensure patients understand these risks and provide informed consent to move ahead with the procedure.
In addition to common risks such as bleeding and infection, cosmetic procedures may also fail to meet the patient’s expectations for the change in their appearance. While unfortunate, it is important to note that dissatisfaction with results does not necessarily mean that the surgeon or practitioner failed to do his or her job.
Rather, a cosmetic surgery injury refers to avoidable injuries that occur due to negligence on the part of a medical practitioner. Examples include:
- Disfigurement and excess scarring
- Nerve damage resulting in loss of function or mobility
- Vision loss and blindness
- Heart attack or stroke due to anaesthesia errors
- Damage to internal organs
- Injury or infection due to a foreign object being left inside the patient
- Undiagnosed or unmanaged post-operative infection
Some injuries are immediately obvious, while others may develop over time. It is important to speak to a knowledgeable lawyer as soon as possible if you suffered a cosmetic surgery injury and believe medical negligence may have been a factor.
Are You Entitled to Compensation for a Cosmetic Surgery Injury?
Injuries caused by cosmetic surgery errors may be compensable under medical negligence law. In Victoria, matters involving medical negligence are brought as common law personal injury claims.
To recover compensation for a cosmetic surgery injury, you must prove the following:
- The cosmetic surgeon or practitioner owed you a duty of care. In other words, you were or are a patient of the practitioner and were therefore entitled to the standard of care a similarly qualified practitioner would owe a patient under similar circumstances.
- The duty of care was violated. Specific evidence of negligence on the part of the defendant must be presented to show that the practitioner failed to act in accordance with the standards commonly held by the medical community.
- The negligence caused your injuries. Although it might seem like a given that an avoidable error during cosmetic surgery or a cosmetic procedure caused you harm, causation can actually be difficult to prove in medical negligence claims. Strong evidence and expert testimony is required.
- You sustained damages. Additional evidence must be presented of the losses you have suffered as a result of the cosmetic surgery injury.
If all of these elements are met, you may be entitled to compensation for economic damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, etc. You may also have a claim for non-economic loss (such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.), but you must show that you meet the criteria set forth in the Wrongs Act 1958 – Sect 28LE.
Often, compensation for a cosmetic surgery injury may be obtained through settlement negotiations. However, if a settlement cannot be reached, your lawyer can discuss the possibility of taking the matter to court.
Cosmetic Surgery Injury? Henry Carus + Associates Can Help!
The new regulations on cosmetic surgery and non-cosmetic procedures are a step in the right direction when it comes to keeping patients safe and publicising the risks of these procedures. However, we believe the guidelines don’t go far enough. Most troubling is the fact that any medical practitioner can perform cosmetic surgery so long as they have ‘the appropriate knowledge, training and experience’.
It is our opinion that such a vague standard makes errors on the part of practitioners much more difficult to avoid. This increases the risk of injury to patients undergoing cosmetic surgery and non-surgical procedures.
Contact Henry Carus + Associates for a FREE, no-obligation consultation if you or someone you love suffered a cosmetic surgery injury due to the negligence of a medical practitioner. Our lawyers serve clients in Melbourne and throughout VIC.