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Home | Blog | Plastic surgeon vs cosmetic surgeon: How different can they be?

The practice of ‘cosmetic surgery’ has attracted a significant amount of media attention over the past few years. On 13 February 2018, the NSW Parliament announced an inquiry into cosmetic health service complaints in New South Wales. The inquiry is ongoing and we understand a report is being prepared by the committee.

TCI class action

Turner Freeman Lawyers has a particular interest in cosmetic medicine due to our class action against The Cosmetic Institute (TCI). We have commenced a class action against TCI as a result of a large number of complaints from women who have left disfigured, injured and in pain with unsatisfactory results by surgeons at TCI. For more information regarding the class action or to register as a participant, please visit our class action page or contact our Partner, Sally Gleeson, on (02) 8222 3333.

Plastic surgeon vs cosmetic surgeon

We take this opportunity to explain the difference between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon as it is a question that we frequently answer.

Plastic surgeon

A specialist plastic surgeon is a practitioner who has completed a minimum twelve years of medical education and training prior to becoming qualified. They are required to complete a minimum five year specialist reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery postgraduate training course run by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. As part of this training course, they are required to undergo two entry examinations, re-assessment with feedback every three months, complete log-books, extensive practical training and complete an extensive exit exam prior to qualification.

The title of “Specialist Plastic Surgeon” is the only title that is protected by AHPRA. This means that only surgeons who have gone through the rigorous training course via the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons can adopt this title.

Cosmetic surgeon

In contrast, a cosmetic surgeon is a practitioner who has obtained a degree in medicine.  They do not have to have any surgical or specialist training. They may be a general practitioner who has undergone a weekend course sponsored by the manufacturer of a particular product or implant. They may be a general surgeon with experience in cosmetic surgery.

The distinction between two practitioners who are able to hold themselves out as surgeons is huge. It serves as a reminder for all patients to do their research on any prospective treating practitioner, particularly if surgery and/or anaesthesia is involved.

Do your research

The Australian Healthcare Practitioners Regulatory Agency (AHPRA) is the body for dealing with the registration of healthcare practitioners in Australia. We recommend always searching the name of the practitioner on the AHPRA website prior to undergoing any treatment. This will reveal details like the practitioner’s qualifications, area of specialty and any conditions or restrictions placed upon their registration. A quick search of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons’ website may also be helpful to you in making your decision.

Turn to Turner Freeman

There are legal options available if you have suffered as a result of cosmetic surgery. We encourage you to call us on 13 43 63 to speak with one of our medical law experts.

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