Where can you turn if cosmetic surgery goes wrong?

in Special Feature 26 July 2016

Where can you turn if cosmetic surgery goes wrong?

Last year, there were over 51,000 cosmetic surgery operations in the UK, an increase of more than 6,000 on the previous year. Ever-advancing techniques and a growing range of procedures have made cosmetic intervention more attractive and accessible. However, in a bid to cash-in on this growing market, there are numerous reports of irresponsible practitioners performing sub-standard surgery.

It’s not uncommon for cosmetic operations to be offered as competition prizes, or perhaps as part of buy-one-get-one-free packages, which can sometimes leave recipients feeling pressured into surgery that they may not have otherwise considered.

Lifelong complications

The consequences of botched procedures can be disastrous, leaving victims with long-term health problems, impaired physical appearance and low self-esteem, as well as being significantly out of pocket.

The extent of this was highlighted by the PIP breast implant scandal of 2009, where it emerged that the company had been using industrial grade silicone, instead of the required medical grade materials. This resulted in implants shifting or even bursting, with serious health complications, including pain, deformation, and even infection.

While many women have sought compensation for their injuries and have been able to arrange corrective surgery, thousands are still believed to be living with faulty implants.

Cosmetic intervention gone wrong

There is no doubt that successful surgery can be truly life-changing; eliminating the signs of aging, such as wrinkles or bags under the eyes, or the covering-up of scarring can boost self-confidence.

However, when cosmetic surgery goes wrong, the damage can be devastating. A London man spent his early fifties in intense pain after botched silicone facial fillers became infected. The £5,000 fillers were supposed to give him a “fresh” look, but the silicone shifted and hardened within his face, creating ridges, scars, and creases.

Later, his facial tissue became infected, and had to be drained of pus, worsening his scars, and leaving him in tremendous pain. Fortunately, a second plastic surgeon was able to gradually rebuild his face, after removing almost 100g of scar tissue.

In another case, a 43-year-old mother had to undergo the removal of her teeth, after a £65 whitening treatment weakened her gums. The beautician responsible lacked the dental qualifications required by law and she was required to pay compensation to the client, as well as reimbursing the cost of treatment.

Seeking a second opinion

If you’re currently considering a cosmetic procedure, it’s vital to remember that surgeons owe you a duty of care. A conscientious professional will not take advantage of spontaneity, ensuring that you’re fully-informed on associated risks and not rushing you into going ahead with operations. All cosmetic surgeons are required to register with the Care Quality Commission, so you can visit the CQC website to check credentials.

If you’ve had cosmetic surgery and are unhappy with the results, or you have concerns over the impact to your health, speak with your surgeon or contact your GP. You can also talk to a legal professional for reassurance and guidance if you feel you have received a poor standard of care.

Many victims of surgical malpractice are reluctant to come forward, fearing that their case will not be taken seriously. However, everyone has the right to safe treatment, so victims should not be afraid to speak up.

Even if you’re undecided about taking legal action, it can be helpful to discuss the matter with a solicitor to ensure that you do not lose your chance to pursue compensation - UK law dictates that you only have three years from the date you became aware of problems to file a claim. For more information, you can download the free guide, ‘Justice for Medical Harm’.

Malcolm Underhill is a Partner at IBB Claims, specialists in medical negligence.

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