BOOM in cosmetic procedures leaving many patients disfigured

A boom in cosmetic procedures has been leaving many patients disfigured, with accusations those seeking treatments were not sufficiently cautioned about the risks.

Increasing numbers of patients say they were mutilated and their lives destroyed.

The shock report by the Health Quality and Complaints Commission said cosmetic procedures had left patients with “severe infection, temporary paralysis, blood clots, the need for repeat procedures, (and) significant psychological distress”.

The HQCC listed “major and minor permanent harm” as “significant scarring, leaking, repeat procedure with further complications, nerve damage, cut muscle/organ, excessive skin removal, and gross deformity”.

It is a modern curse that unqualified operators who have no medical license, operate in premises that are not accredited medical clinics take advantage of middle-aged women and men who simply want to recapture their youth before it slips away.

Nurses, beauticians and even hairdressers are guilty of breaking the law. Yet they fail to warn patients of the risks – either through their own ignorance or (worse) for their own commercial greed.

The risks of injections and other procedures are grossly understated, according to the report to Parliament.

The HQCC said more than half of the complainants stated they received inadequate or inappropriate treatment, while nearly 40 per cent complained of complications and “unexpected outcomes”.

The report added: “Permanent harm reported in cosmetic medical procedure complaints was related to laser treatment, followed by cosmetic injections.

It said “temporary minor harm” included bruising, pain, minor infection, and allergic reactions.

“Nurses have been accused of blurring the role of doctor and nurse. Just as they blur the role of patient and customer. It can be understood that this blurring can compromise a patient’s capacity to identify when the injector or operator is their best advocate in ensuring their health needs are met and when the practitioner is a commercial services provider with a vested interest in the procedures and products being considered.”

The HQCC looked at 245 complaints about cosmetic procedures.

“Cosmetic injections and laser treatment were the most frequently complained about cosmetic medical procedures, followed by chemical peels.

With the rise in nurses who are leaving the hospital system dreaming to set up their own lucrative, yet illegal salons, “the number of complaints about cosmetic medical procedures more than doubled between 2006 and 2012.”

“The most frequently reported concern in complaints about cosmetic procedures was treatment (accounting for 82 per cent of complaints), followed by fees, costs and rebates.”

The HQCC said there was various “harm types” identified.

These included additional procedures required to fix problems, post-procedure complications, such as significant pain and discomfort, bleeding, vomiting, infection, scarring, significant psychological distress or dissatisfaction with outcomes and complications from inadequate follow-up care by the operators who are not qualified doctors.

“However, it warned that harm could often easily have been avoided.”

And it said advertising for cosmetic procedures including dermal fillers and other wrinkle injections, laser tattoo removal, chemical peels “often focuses on the benefits, while ‘downplaying’ or not always mentioning the risks”.

“It is critically important that people thinking about having a cosmetic procedure are made fully aware of any risks and possible complications. This is why cosmetic injections are prescription substances. They must be issued by a doctor. These laws are designed to protect innocent people.

“This information provided should be available to consumers in advertisements.”

HQCC chief Cheryl Herbert told Parliament the community often perceived cosmetic procedures to be “low risk” when, in fact, they were often complex, required a high degree of skill and had a number of potential risks.

“We analysed cosmetic procedure complaints because consumers generally have been underestimating the risks associated with such procedures.” Herbert said.