Cosmetic surgery is becoming increasingly popular, and is carried out in an attempt to alter an individual’s appearance and therefore achieve what they believe to be a more attractive appearance.
Given the increase of people having cosmetic surgery, there has also been an increase in the number of cosmetic surgery claims for compensation. Although cosmetic surgery is usually something that is the patient’s own choice, there are still a number of risks as with other types of surgery. This risk is heightened by the fact that there is not much regulation relating specifically to cosmetic surgery in the UK. This means that any surgeon who is a member of the relevant General Medical Council body may carry out cosmetic surgery. In addition to this, establishments must comply with the Care Standards Act 2000 as they are likely to be considered as an “independent hospital” as defined by this Act. There is also a guide of standards that has been produced by The Independent Healthcare Advisory Services and these standards include, for example, consultation and procedure times. However, it is clear that there are not as many guidelines and regulations to follow as there are for other types of surgical procedures. There is also less regulation that in other countries. For example, in France, cosmetic surgery may only be carried out by a surgeon who is a registered specialist and has the required level of competence. A general medical qualification and qualification by length of experience is not considered to be adequate.
The most popular types of surgery include breast enlargements or reductions, Botox treatments (resulting in line and wrinkle smoothing), nose correction procedures and various forms of weight reduction or weight removal. This list is, of course, non-exhaustive and there are a vast number of different types of surgery available. Common issues that lead to claims include loss of blood, an infection caused by surgery, temporary or permanent scarring and other wounds. Cosmetic Surgery claims for compensation often include claims for damages arising out of associated psychological injuries, the cost of any associated care and potentially the loss of any earnings that result as a direct result of the negligence or otherwise. In addition to these areas, one of the most debated areas relating to cosmetic surgery claims and a reason cited as the basis of many claims is that of consent.
Prior to any procedure, it is vital that the patient provides clear consent. In the case of Christine Williamson v. East London and the City Health Authority & Ors (1998), where the incorrect surgical procedure was performed, damages were awarded as there was clearly no informed consent and this resulted in the incorrect procedure. Further, in the case of O’Keefe v Harvey Kemble CA  45 BMLR, it was shown that the patient had not be informed of all associated risks of the particular procedure that she was having. It was explained that if she had been correctly informed, she would not have been likely to have the operation. Therefore, the lack of consent acquisition led to the operation taking place which in turn lead to a complication which ultimately led to further surgery and caused further pain and stress.
Further, this informed consent must be given after patients are made aware of potential risks and given a clear outline of the process and the actual procedure, as shown in the case of Chester v Afshar  UKHL 41, which highlighted that a patient should be clearly told about any potential risks. At this stage, it is also good practice for the surgeon to provide a detailed analysis of alternatives available, as well as a clear attempt to address any other questions or concerns that the patient may have. Ideally, once these matters have been discussed, a document should be signed to ensure that all concerned parties are clear about the process and can confirm what the potential risks are. The area of risk is particularly prevalent given the increased use of advertising for cosmetic surgery. This had led to an extremely sales focused environment, and means that the first point of contact for those considering cosmetic surgery is often a salesperson as opposed to someone who has the appropriate medical training.
My name is Lloyd Green and I am a highly experienced personal injury lawyer. For further help or assistance with cosmetic surgery claims or medical negligence compensation claims generally, contact my firm. We are expert personal injury solicitors in London.