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Calling for regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry by insisting on mandated pre-surgical psychological assessments

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The number of people undergoing elective cosmetic surgery is climbing, but what’s the real cost?

Too many vulnerable women and men are having unnecessary elective cosmetic surgery without undergoing psychological assessment. With a range of readily available surgeries from breast augmentation to liposuction, fillers, microdermabrasion and Botox, elective surgery is easy to source and is dangerously unaccountable for the psychological impacts pre- and post-surgery.  

While in the UK and parts of Europe pre-surgical psychological assessments are the norm, in Australia there is NO pre-screening required.

Recently, a Gold Coast medical tourism company proudly claimed to have the "boob job world record”, which, ironically enough, just happened to coincide with World Mental Health Day. And while this “record” has sparked concern from some doctors that this type of surgery is being trivialised, these senseless operations continue.    

Research shows that non-medically required cosmetic surgery damages self-esteem in the long term, because people constantly have to fix their “flaws” to live up to society’s supposed idea of what beauty is. 

Australian Clinical Psychologist Dr Lars Madsen says, "Reconstructive surgery for medical procedures, such as a mastectomy following breast cancer, understandably helps a patient's recovery from the traumatic experience of breast disfiguration, but when it comes to surgery with no physical health related history; the psychological profiles of women who receive breast implants for non-medical reasons are characterised by low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence. Research tells us that following cosmetic surgery, patients variously report their body image has either not changed, or diminished."

Two major breast implant companies in the U.S., Allergan and Mentor, both tried to prove to the FDA that breast implants helped self-esteem and both were proved wrong. Allergan used 12 different quality of life measures to compare augmentation patients before surgery and two years later. Nine of the 12 quality of life measures were worse after the women got their breast implants, including self-esteem. That's 75% of a patient's quality of life recording no real positive impact after two years. The results were similar for women getting Mentor breast implants.

While the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons’ (ASPS) Code of Conduct insists on a cooling off period, and that a surgeon must have an “established relationship” outside of the hospital environment (by which they mean the patient and the surgeon need to have had at least one consultation), there is nothing in the code to suggest that a patient’s self-esteem or mental health is to be taken into consideration at all by a surgeon.

This is unacceptable.  

My ethical responsibilities as the CEO of Mind Shift - The National Self Esteem Initiative, have propelled me to act. I, and all other women and men who find the lack of psychological resources and support for patients in the cosmetic industry disgraceful, call for regulation of the industry with the aim of mandating pre-surgical psychological assessments to stop vulnerable people becoming victims of unnecessary cosmetic surgery.

We have the right to expect more from our doctors in Australia. We need to address the root cause of poor body image not with surgery, but with psychological support services. 

Please spread the word, and join our patron Adam Ferrier and Ambassador Kerry Armstrong in demanding pre-surgical psychological assessment. We really appreciate your help and support to stop this madness.    

www.mindshift.org.au

 



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