An ABC 4 Corners program exposing patient complaints and questioning the practice of dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon Dr Daniel Lanzer has reopened the question of just who can use the non-protected title of cosmetic surgeon.
The program titled Cosmetic Cowboys included accusations of botched procedures such as liposuction, abdominoplasty and breast reduction.
It also showed compelling video and images, purportedly from his practices, suggesting lapses in infection control and a lack of due attention to care during procedures, with staff dancing and singing around an unconscious patient.
In one video, Dr Lanzer multitasks by performing lipoplasty while recording a video message to his social media followers.
Plastic surgeons on the program invited to comment on the video called it “incredibly dangerous” given Dr Lanzer was talking to the camera instead of watching where the tip of the cannula was at all times.
However Dr Lanzer, who failed in court action to prevent the 4 Corners program going to air, has since said the program was more about the “longstanding, one-sided jealousy and financial related turf war” between plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons.
In response to the program, a joint statement by the Royal Australasian College (RACS), the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), and the Australian Society of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgeons (ASOHNS), said Australian patients expect all procedures to be performed to the highest possible standards.
Yet, “a significant proportion of those advertising cosmetic surgical procedures will not have Australian specialist registration in a specialty with a significant surgical scope.”
“We do not wish to see patients suffering harm, having incorrectly assumed that the person carrying out the procedure had completed accredited specialist surgical training from RACS,” the statement said.
They implied the regulatory system was failing Australian patients.
“A relatively minor but potentially effective reform would be one which prevented medical practitioners not registered in a specialty with a significant surgical scope, and who have not been trained in an AMC accredited surgical training program from representing themselves as ‘cosmetic surgeons’ and advertising to the general public as such. We understand the Health Council is looking at this issue and RACS urges prompt action.”
The AMA has also responded with a call for action from health ministers after three years of delays.
An AMA statement said health ministers have been consulting on reforms to the regulatory scheme governing all health practitioners in Australia since July 2018. They supported restrictions to the use of titles ‘surgeon’ and ‘cosmetic surgeon’ but announced that further consultation would need to occur.
AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said the loophole needs to be closed.
“Many Australians will be shocked to know you can call yourself a cosmetic surgeon without any specific surgical training whatsoever as there’s no restriction on the use of the term ‘surgeon’ by doctors or by other health practitioners,” he said.
The AMA supports this reform and urges health ministers to finally complete the work they began over three years ago.
“Safe surgery required high levels of training- there are no short cuts. To protect the public, anyone using the term ‘surgeon’ must be a medical practitioner who has had the appropriate qualifications and credentialling that guarantees a minimum level of training and expertise as well as oversight of standards of practice and ethical behaviour.
Watch the 4 Corners program Cosmetic Cowboys