Derek Couper: Cosmetic surgery – compensation and regulations


While access to cosmetic treatments such as teeth whitening, Botox injections and skin peels was once the preserve of the modeling and fashion world, Scots across the country are now experiencing thousands of ‘cosmetic improvements every year due to the increased availability and affordability of these procedures.

Since many cosmetic treatments are either unavailable on the NHS or only available in very specific cases, those determined to go under the knife will more often than not find themselves working with private treatment centres, independent salons or individual therapists. While in most cases cosmetic treatments are performed smoothly and to the patient’s satisfaction, there are instances in which issues arise as a result of the procedure, including the possibility of a patient sustaining serious injury. and often for life. It may be possible to claim compensation for these injuries if a mistake was made due to professional negligence, which caused further suffering.

Legislation and enforcement in this emerging area of ​​medical practice has been the subject of much criticism, with many claiming that there is only an incomplete patchwork of regulations in place applicable to private therapists, with significant burdens for the application of the relevant provisions in circumstances where certain practitioners are not regulated by any professional body. The Scottish Government has recently confirmed that it will bring forward proposed laws and regulations which will apply to individual practitioners carrying out cosmetic treatments “in the near future”. However, many fear it is too little too late, including Edinburgh-based Dr Demosthenous, who specializes in the field of aesthetic medicine in his own regulated practice. Last month he said: “Regulation in Scotland started with good intentions, but has become the joke of aesthetic medicine around the world.

Like Dr Demosthenous, many others are concerned that the legislation proposed by the Scottish Government is likely to focus on healthcare professionals who are already tightly regulated and held accountable by their own regulatory bodies, including the General Medical Council, the General Dental Council and the Nursing and Midwifery. Advice. Perhaps of most concern are unlicensed individual practitioners who advertise openly and more often on social media and perform treatments at home or in other informal settings. The concern is that the continued lack of regulation of these people, who are most likely to harm patients who accompany them for treatment, will continue to be unregulated and without sufficient safeguards in place.

Practitioners who carry out procedures such as Botox fillings, facelifts, teeth whitening and skin peelings or other treatments are currently not required to register with Health Improvement Scotland. Conversely, doctors, nurses, dentists, dental assistants and other healthcare professionals are required to register with the relevant body responsible for overseeing the quality and delivery of their care, including cosmetic treatments that they perform. Nail technicians, salon owners and others are not required to register with HIS and are therefore not bound by the same regulations and safeguards that apply to other medical professions. It is for this reason that many consider regulation necessary, although many fear that it does not go far enough. The focus will be on the scope of the new provisions, how they can be applied to those providing treatment to the public, including those who are not registered with a professional body, and how the application would work in the latter scenario.

There will be many more comments on patient safety in relation to cosmetic procedures once the draft regulations have been published by the Scottish Government. Until then, many fear that we remain in a situation where individuals risk adverse consequences by accepting procedures undertaken in unregulated premises and by unregulated practitioners. If these procedures are performed negligently and harm to the patient ensues, there is currently a real risk that the patient will not be able to bring a negligence action against that person if they are not regulated and without sufficient indemnification insurance. Legal professionals, doctors and patients will be eager to understand the intent of the regulations once published and their impact on the availability, affordability and expected standards of cosmetic procedures in Scotland in the future.

Derek Couper is a partner at Morton Fraser LLP

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