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Sally Gleeson medical negligence lawyer discussing cosmetic surgery

Sally Gleeson providing Q & A on the 2GB Chris Smith Afternoon Show discussing cosmetic surgery– 14 August 2018

Tuesday, 14 August 2018


CS – Chris Smith /SG – Sally Gleeson /C1,2,3, etc – Callers



CS         Well once upon a time cosmetic procedures and plastic surgery was reserved for the rich and famous really. A taboo topic – no one wanted to admit that had work done – these days, a completely different story. People talk about it freely. Some like a badge of honour – plus of course it is more accessible and the age of patients going under the knife is becoming younger and younger. Last year, Australians had 20,000 boob jobs, 30,000 liposuction procedures and 350 million dollars worth of botox – cop that. But as the industry explodes, we are hearing some horrific stories of procedures gone wrong and the financial and emotional stress that causes.  Just last year we heard about the sudden death of the owner of a beauty clinic in Sydney just someone with absolutely no medical qualifications performed a boob job on her. The problem is that there is actually no proper regulation of the industry in Australia. Well someone who has been on the forefront of the fight against dodgy practitioners is our very own Sally Gleeson from Turner Freeman Lawyers – she’s lead a couple of class actions and if you’ve got any questions for Sally about cosmetic surgery in Australia or any other questions about something that you are involved with, maybe some medical negligence that you need some advice on, 131 873 is the telephone number.  I’ve also got the $100 Westfield voucher for one of our callers. A $100 Westfield voucher – Sally Gleeson is a partner in the Turner Freeman Sydney office. She is in the studio. Sally. Thank you very much for coming in.

SG       Thanks Chris.

CS         I had a good look at the 4 Corners program last night, we saw you comment on the industry, it does boil down to this doesn’t it? But there is actually no proper regulation of the industry in Australia.

SG         There isn’t. No – and……

CS         So who can do cosmetic surgery on people like us?

SG         Well depends on your definition of cosmetic surgery. If you are talking about invasive cosmetic surgery, so breast augmentation, buttock lift, procedures involving insertion of types of implants, then a doctor. Now a doctor is someone who has finished their medical training and it stops at that. So any doctor who has finished their medical training currently is the law in Australia can perform any type of cosmetic surgery, and that’s the problem.  so…….

CS         So that doctor doesn’t necessarily have to undergo the years practice or study on cosmetic surgery per sae?

SG         Not by law, but obviously we say that and plastic surgeons say that to perform proper cosmetic surgery involving the types of surgery that I just discussed, particularly the invasive complex surgery that I’m talking about that involves cutting into pockets and opening up someone and putting things in, all the reputable, sensible doctors are saying you need to be a qualified plastic surgeon and that means that after you finish your Medical Degree, you have to undergo years and years or possibly between 7 to 10 years of specialist training. You have to have the experience. You can’t just do this type of surgery without understanding the anatomy, without properly having that training to enable you to perform the surgery in a proper and competent manner.

CS        Okay. So there are some regulations?

SG         Well there are some regulations as in you’ve got to be a doctor. The problem however that we have is that anyone can say, I can perform the surgery on you and that I am a cosmetic surgeon. So the title “Cosmetic Surgeon” is unregulated. So when a patient approaches a doctor and a doctor says “Hi. I’m a cosmetic surgeon. I can operate on you”. That patient assumes that that doctor is a surgeon, but what I am saying is that doctor is not a surgeon, because a surgeon is someone who has finished medical school and has the training in surgical procedures. So any doctor can complete medical school currently as is the law in Australia and operate, perform cosmetic surgery.

CS         So we’ve got clinics open, run by and cases performed by people who have no qualifications whatsoever.

SG         No surgical qualifications whatsoever.

CS         How widespread is that problem do you think?

SG         Well – based on what I’ve seen, based on people who are approaching me, based on the number of enquiries that I am receiving, it’s very widespread. It’s an epidemic – that’s how I would classify it.

CS         And a lucrative business no doubt.

SG         Absolutely and that is why patients go to these doctors.

CS         So how much does this stuff cost?   

SG         Well – for example Turner Freeman Lawyers – we’ve filed class action representative proceedings in the Supreme Court. I have several hundred women who have approached me and this is about a voice for these women. It’s about their opportunity of seeking justice. These women approached a particular cosmetic clinic. A very well known cosmetic clinic which advertises its services in the most attractive and luring way offering breast augmentation surgery at record low – budget prices – $5,990.

CS         That’s a budget price?

SG         Budget price. Because if you were to approach a reputable plastic surgeon who has completed all the qualifications to enable someone to properly do breast augmentation surgery, you’re looking at least three or four times that. So patients obviously enquiry and they are told, why would you go to anyone but us – we can offer the same service, the same quality – we offer exactly same thing at a third of the price. And they advertise, attract women and of course why would you think twice about it? When you are being told you get the same a third of the price.

CS         And so you’re going to the Court on behalf of these women at the moment arguing – two things – One – they are responsible for botched cosmetic surgery procedures and that they are not qualified – both?

SG         We are saying that the way that the breast augmentation surgery operation was run at this particular cosmetic clinic, it’s about a business model that was created, designed and implemented to execute breast augmentation surgery that had at the forefront of its objective profit, not patient welfare and safety but profit – how do we make as much money as possible?  How do we drive them in and drive them out. It’s the fast food approach, it’s the conveyor belt approach, the one size fits all approach. We do it as fast as we can – as quickly as we can because we need to work on volumes to make money because we are offering it at a very low price – so how do we make as much money as possible by offering the surgery at such a budget price and we are saying that that is wrong.

CS         Okay – how badly were the botched jobs?

SG         Well.

CS         How badly did they turn out?

SG         Well in 2015 the first woman who approached me, who is one of our lead applicants – one of our plaintiffs suffered a heart attack. So these premises operated under a setting where a general anaesthetic was not applied – so just imagine having breast augmentation surgery through the administration of a local anaesthetic and sedation. What happens is patients feel pain – they move – they’re uneasy – they are restless – so you just keep giving them more local anaesthetic to numb the pain – what happens is of course that you are bound to overdose when you do that. So my first client who approached me was given too much local anaesthetic – she suffered toxicity – she suffered a heart attack. The second client had a seizure from local anaesthetic toxicity. The third client had a lung punctured. So we are talking gross negligence – we are saying that it is the worse that can happen to someone. And then of course we are talking about women who have suffered gross disfigurement, horrific pain, nerve pain. Some of the pain is permanent – even if you go and see someone else and have them removed and have someone rectify what you know the actual bad boob job. Some women have permanent pain because parts of their anatomy have been permanently scarred, so bad – I would say very bad.

CS         What’s the difference between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery?

SG         Well cosmetic surgery – plastic surgery – in terms of the performance of procedures, it is a subjective assessment – nothing. So plastic surgery of course covers – you know doctors who specialise in plastics – so they do facial reconstruction, help people who have bad scarring or burns – people who have incidences that involved really traumatic experiences. Cosmetic is more of the cosmetic. But they both overlap – so cosmetic can be plastic and vice versa,

CS         You’ve obviously being in the medical negligence field, you have obviously seen an explosion of botched cases in recent years?

SG         Absolutely. So I would say that it’s become of interest to you know all of us in the 3 or 4 years.

CS         So when they go knocking on the door three months down the track when they are in serious pain or they’ve suffered even worse ailments, what do they hear from those who performed surgery and where to do they go to try and get some kind of justice in these cases?

SG         Well in women – in my experience with my clients – they’ve told them  sorry – it’s your anatomy, there’s nothing that  we can do about it and of course I was someone who was offered  a procedure at such a low price. Why would they offer to rectify? It would cost too much.

CS         I very timely subject today – medical negligence after the 4 Corners investigation aired last night. Sally Gleeson from Turner Freeman with us and quite happy to take your calls. And by the way – you can go to the website or if you are looking for some professional assistance through Turner Freeman, the NSW number is 1300 237 112. 1300 237 112. The QLD number 13 43 63. Craig – go right ahead.

Caller 1 – Craig

Craig              Yeah – G’day Chris – how are you mate?

CS         I’m very well – Sally is listening.

Craig               G’day Sally. How are you going?

SG         Hi – good thank you?

Craig              Good love – Good. Must – my partner had ……. crackling of the line

CS         Hey Craig, can I just put you back so we can maybe make another call to you so we can get a better line because you are dropping out. Garry – go ahead

Caller 2 – Garry

Garry    Hi Sally

SG         Hi Garry.

Garry    I understand that in order to get pain and suffering damages , you have to exceed 15% whole person impairment in NSW – the boob jobs will not give you that nor will it affect your earning capacity is that right?

SG      No. That’s not right – its 15% of a most extreme case. So it’s not 15% whole person impairment…….

Garry Well – is a boob job 15% of a most extreme case?

SG      A bad boob job definitely is. So obviously it’s a subjective test Garry – it depends on the extent of your injuries. The perception about boob jobs is you know by virtue of its motivation and intentions carrying with it because it’s a boob job, a smaller degree of significance isn’t right – I mean I understand why one would think that but that ‘s not right. So, a bad boob job can cause horrific pain, it can cause mobile implants that move around your chest, it can cause nerve damage, it can cause nerve damage, it can cause ………

CS       Not only mental impacts as well.

SG      And a mental impact – a psychological impact – so 15% of a most extreme case is easily overcome by a terrible boob job.

Caller 1 – Craig

CS         Okay – I’ve got Craig back –  Craig I’ve only got 60 seconds – you better tell Sally your story quickly if you can.

Craig     That’s alright mate. No worries – sorry about that guys – Yeah – my partner went to known plastic surgeon and had a breast augmented done or breast reduction. When she woke up, she had no breasts and no nipples.

SG         Okay – when you say no breast Craig. How do you mean? As in?

Craig  She was flat chested – she looked like a man.

CS       So what have you done about that?

Craig  Well. We tried to seek some legal advice but we’ve got to get an independent………….

SG       Expert opinion?

CS         Ok – Craig. Firstly I’m going to give you the $100 Westfield voucher  – secondly, I’m going to put you directly onto Sally because I think Turner Freeman can help your case and I would like to get back to you down the track to work out how it’s gone. Stay there Craig. In this case Sally – something has to be done.

SG         Absolutely.

CS         When he says independent advice…….

SG         An independent expert opinion……. which is what you do

CS       Which is what you do.

SG       Which is what we pay for.

CS       Okay.

SG       Sorry.

CS       I’ve run out of time but thank you Sally for your time this afternoon.

SG       Thanks.

SG       Sally Gleeson –Turner Freeman.


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