Medical Negligence

Comment: A lack of evidence on harmful cosmetic procedures is hampering potential claims

November 3, 2022
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Earlier this week the government announced that they intend to step up their efforts to raise awareness around the risks connected to cosmetic procedures.

The BBC, ITV and a number of other UK nationals have communicated a shared concern that as it stands, there is not enough information out there on the potential dangers that come with popular cosmetic procedures.

Speaking in reflection of the news, Fletchers Solicitor’s Junior Litigation Executive, Jennifer Corcoran believes that there is also a legal concern as legitimate claims could be hampered by a lack of supporting evidence:

“A campaign to raise awareness of the risks of cosmetic procedures is shortly to be launched by the government in England. 

In a world of celebrity culture and photo filters, more and more people are turning to non-surgical treatments such as Botox and lip fillers to boost their confidence and tackle the signs of aging.­

Cosmetic enhancement is not just surgery practiced by trained clinicians, but is also offered by non-medically trained people on the high street and treatment can be administered without proper knowledge or understanding of the risks.­

Whilst many people are happy with the results, there are also cautionary tales ranging from people becoming addicted to the results to those suffering adverse reactions and in extreme cases even death.  

The number of complaints regarding “botched” cosmetic procedures was up 147% from 378 in 2016 to 934 in 2018 [Of these 249 in 2016 and 616 in 2018 concerned dermal fillers, also a 147% increase]. 

MP Alberto Costa led a parliamentary debate earlier this year after meeting with a constituent who had suffered from an injury following a lip filler. 

The constituent had fillers at a party at home that made her lips quadruple in size, but she was not able to be treated when she presented at an NHS hospital as there was discomfort but no danger. 

She brought the matter to her MP as there was no regulatory recourse.

Experts in the field, often called upon to fix these errors by devastated patients, have been calling for tighter regulations for some time now. 

In 2012 the BMJ debated whether the advertising of cosmetic surgery should be banned and in 2013 The Keogh Report called for tighter regulations. 

In 2018, several professional bodies in the field including aesthetic clinicians, cosmetic nurses and dermatologists agreed to work together to create a framework of standards that divides parties into clinicians and non-clinicians and creates a register for training organisations too.

Two independent bodies were also launched to enforce this. 

The registers of practitioners and training organisations is overseen by the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP). 

The JCCP will also be able to report to professional organisations such as the General Medical Council.  The standards for competence are overseen by the Cosmetic Practitioner’s Standards Authority (CPSA).

The JCCP website clearly states its aspiration of “Seeking to become a ‘thoughtful organisation’ that encourages the pursuit of trustworthiness and effective collaboration amongst its partners in order to protect the public and to promote excellence in practise.”

There is a register of approved practitioners that is currently voluntary but is certainly in the interest of both the clinician and the client.

The GMC and the British College of Aesthetic Medicine (BCAM) are supportive of these steps to promote education and legislate these practices.  Increased awareness equips GPs and other health professionals in advising their patients, and in turn leads to better informed consent.

It is also understood that from 2020, the government aims to make dermal fillers only available with a prescription, thus regulating the content and dosage available.

From a legal perspective, the regulation of minor cosmetic surgery treatments has been long overdue.

Minor cosmetic procedures may not amount to medical treatment and therefore the degree of record keeping and discussing often falls below the standard to be expected in an NHS or private medical facility. 

Pursuing a claim for negligent treatment may therefore be hampered from the outset due to a lack of evidence and any step to introduce formal requirements for all types of medical procedures is to be welcomed.

It will only be with the establishment of a statutory framework and enforcement of sanctions for non-compliance that standards will be driven upwards and these initial steps are to be welcomed.”

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