Cosmetic surgeons demand ban on advertising their own trade

Experts ask government to tighten the regulations / 'Gold-rush' endangers clients, a chief plastic surgeon warns

It is a modern gold-rush founded on human vanity and the search for eternal youth. But today's prospectors are surgeons, not miners, and the lives they risk are not their own but those of their mostly female clients, lured with impossible promises of anatomical perfection.

In an astonishing attack on the booming cosmetic surgery industry, Nigel Mercer, president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (Baaps), and himself a practising cosmetic surgeon in Bristol, says it is time to call a halt to the unregulated trade.

Increasing numbers of medical and non-medical practitioners have entered the market over the past decade, drawn by the huge profits. But the casualties of the boom, seduced by the prospect of bigger breasts, tighter stomachs or more lustrous skin, are the patients doomed to disappointment.

"We have reached a stage where public expectation, driven by media hype and, dare one say, professional greed, has brought us to a 'perfect storm' in the cosmetic surgical market," Mr Mercer said.

An estimated 100,000 cosmetic surgical procedures are performed in Britain each year, many by doctors who have had no specialist training in cosmetic surgery. In addition, hundreds of thousands of non-surgical procedures are done, including Botox for wrinkles and laser peels to rejuvenate skin, many by non-medical staff.

The 200-member Baaps represents the top surgeons in the business who performed 34,187 surgical procedures in 2008, twice the number in 2004. More than 90 per cent of them were on women. The most popular procedure was breast augmentation, demand for which rose 30 per cent last year.

But Mr Mercer, who combines private practice as a cosmetic surgeon specialising in facelifts with his work as an NHS consultant in reconstructive surgery for cancer patients, said the market for cosmetic surgery, of which Baaps surgeons account for less than one third, was an "unregulated mess".

He added: "There has been a massive increase in marketing, including discount vouchers, two-for-one offers and holidays with surgery. In no other area of medicine is there such an unregulated mess. What is worse is that national governments would not allow it to happen in other areas of medicine. Imagine a two-for-one advert for general surgery. That way lies madness."

Mr Mercer, in the journal Clinical Risk, which publishes articles on cosmetic surgery today, he warns that "the doctor's first duty to protect the patient" has been forgotten in the headlong rush to cash in. "The motive for performing any procedure must never be financial gain ... if we cannot self-regulate then regulation will eventually be imposed."

Citing experience in France, where all advertising of cosmetic procedures is banned, he says: "Perhaps, like tobacco, there should be a Europe-wide ban on advertising all cosmetic surgical procedures, including on the internet search engines."

Among those who can testify to the dangers is Jill Saward, the former lead singer of 1980s group Shakatak, who last year agreed to a facelift in the hope of reviving her career after her divorce. But she suffered complications aggravated by her high blood pressure and bitterly regretted the decision. Three months after the operation she still did not have full feeling and was warned full recovery could take a year.

"Surgery is not a quick-fix solution," she said. "The simple truth is that I could have died. I was an idiot, I should have thought much more carefully about the operation and its dangers. It was pure vanity."

Foad Nahai, president of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, backed Mr Mercer's warning, and called for tougher regulations to prevent doctors practising without specialist training. A code of practice backed by self-regulation of cosmetic clinics was announced by the Government in 2007. Clinics are also subject to inspection by the Care Quality Commission. But Baaps says the measures do not go far enough.

Top procedures: 2008

*Breast augmentation: 8,449 – up 30 per cent from 2007



*Blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery): 5,130 – down 10 per cent



*Face/neck lift: 4,547 – up 1.7 per cent



*Breast reduction: 3,845 – up 13 per cent



*Abdominoplasty: 3,638 – up 30 per cent



*Liposuction: 3,249 – down 29 per cent



*Rhinoplasty: 3,065 – up 1.5 per cent



*Otoplasty (ear correction): 1,260 – up 23 per cent



*Brow lifts: 1,004 – up 4 per cent

Ancient skills

Plastic surgery dates back at least 3,500 years to the Ancient Egyptians who restored damaged or malformed noses. By the sixth century BC the ancient Indian physician Sushruta, sometimes dubbed the father of surgery, was acknowledged as an expert.

In the 18th century British surgeons travelled to India to study nose reconstruction techniques and in the early nineteenth century Joseph Carpue carried out the first such major surgery in Europe, repairing an army officer’s nose using skin from the forehead.

Huge advances in plastic surgery were made during World War Two when Archibald McIndoe, a New Zealander working in Britain, pioneered treatment for RAF airmen who had suffered severe burns, often on the face and usually before being able to bail out of burning aircraft

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Full Stack Software Developer - £80k - Javascript / MEAN

    £45000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Ambitious, entrepreneurial busi...

    Recruitment Genius: Fitter - Plant / Tool

    £20000 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Fitter is required to join a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sage 200 Consultant

    £30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They have a unique reputation f...

    Recruitment Genius: Communications and Graphic Design Officer

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This UK wide voluntary organisa...

    Day In a Page

    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
    I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

    I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

    Latest on the Labour leadership contest
    Froome seals second Tour de France victory

    Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

    Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
    Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

    The uses of sarcasm

    'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
    A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

    No vanity, but lots of flair

    A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
    Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

    In praise of foraging

    How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food