Myths and Facts
FACT : In Australia it is legal for a doctor without formal surgical training to conduct cosmetic or reconstructive surgery
Currently it is legal for a doctor with a basic medical degree to perform surgery. A doctor with only an MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree is not trained for invasive surgical procedures. Specialist Plastic Surgeons, however, are Commonwealth Government accredited plastic surgeon, trained and qualified to perform invasive cosmetic and reconstructive surgery in public and private hospitals, and accredited day surgeries.
Specialist Plastic Surgeons have extensive surgical education and training including a minimum of 12 years medical and surgical education, with at least 5 years of specialist postgraduate training.The five year postgraduate Plastic Surgery Education and Training Program (SET) for surgical registrars is provided by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) and administered by the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons Inc (ASPS). It is important to note that RACS is the only College in Australia that is accredited by the Commonwealth Government to deliver specialist surgical training. Upon completion of their surgical education and training, qualified Specialist Plastic Surgeons become “Fellows” of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS).
The title of“Specialist Plastic Surgeon” is protected by the Medical Board of Australia and can only be used by FRACS approved specialist surgeons in the recognised specialty of Plastic Surgery.
All surgical procedures carry risk, but the chance of risk and complication can be reduced by consulting a Specialist Plastic Surgeon who is trained, qualified and accredited to perform Plastic Surgery. Find out more about Specialist Plastic Surgeons.
MYTH : All plastic surgery procedures are performed in accredited facilities
In Australia it is legal to conduct surgical procedures in unaccredited facilities such as an office space or day procedure centre. In these settings there is often no quality assurance and no way for authorities to monitor that the surgery is being performed safely and expertly.
The Foundation advocates the protection of all patients of Plastic Surgery and believes that all facilities undertaking invasive plastic surgery procedures must meet the practice standards of the Australian Day Surgery Council, and have compulsory registrations and accreditation to ensure that:
- The anaesthesia used is safe
- Infection control, sterile supply and clinical waste management
- Minimum quality and audit requirements (e.g. medicines checked they have not reached their used by dates and are kept at the right temperatures)
- Credentialing of clinical staff
- Building and facility issues (e.g. the resuscitation equipment works)
FACT : All plastic surgery carries risk
With a substantial rise in the number of people undergoing Plastic Surgery in the last 10 years, surgery has become ‘normalised’ and accepted as common place. It cannot be underestimated that Plastic Surgery, both cosmetic and reconstructive, is not unlike any other kind of surgery in that it carries serious risk and therefore needs to be seriously considered. A patient can have an adverse reaction to the anaesthetic or be affected by postoperative complications. These problems can occur even when the surgery has been performed with the utmost skill. In addition results cannot be guaranteed. The best way to reduce risk is to consult a Specialist Plastic Surgeon that is fully trained and qualified.
MYTH : Specialist Plastic Surgeons only perform reconstructive surgery
The medical Specialty of Plastic Surgery encompasses both cosmetic (aesthetic) and reconstructive surgery. A trainee Specialist Plastic Surgeon completes an average of 3,000 procedures over the course of his/her training of which almost two-thirds have a cosmetic application. In fact, Specialist Plastic Surgeons draw from both their reconstructive and cosmetic skills and training in order to deliver the optimal result for each patient, no matter the circumstance.
FACT : There is limited regulation or standardisation on the use of titles to describe medical qualifications in the area of plastic surgery
Patients are sometimes confused by various medical titles and what they represent. A fully trained and accredited surgeon in the specialty of Plastic Surgery is known as a "Specialist Plastic Surgeon." The title of Specialist Plastic Surgeon is protected by the Medical Board of Australia and can only be used by "FRACS" approved specialist surgeons.
The letters, FRACS, stand for Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. This means the surgeon has completed five years of postgraduate Plastic Surgery Education and Training Program (SET) on top of their basic medical degree.
The SET Program is provided by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) and administered by the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons Inc (ASPS). It is important to note that RACS is the only College in Australia that is accredited by the Commonwealth Government to deliver specialist surgical training.
In Australia, the Guidelines for Advertising of Regulated Health Services, including the use of medical titles is provided by the Medical Board.
MYTH : That cosmetic surgery advertising is highly regulated
While the ACCC has developed advertising guidelines for doctors, very little is being done to enforce them. As a result there is an increase in irresponsible advertising by medical practitioners. Unethical advertising is often driven by commercial factors. There is a danger that unethical advertising inflates patient expectations while ignoring or trivialising the risks of surgical procedures. The Foundation promotes transparency of information for patients about education, qualification and accreditation of premises so that patients are able to give informed consent. The Foundation supports the Medical Board of Australia’s Guidelines for Advertising of Regulated Health Services. Visit the Medical Advertising Guidelines page for more information.