In an astonishing attack on the booming cosmetic surgery industry, the president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (Baaps) says it is time to call a halt to the unregulated trade.
An increasing numbers of medical and non-medical practitioners have entered the market over the past decade, drawn by the huge profits. But the casualties of the boom, seduced by the prospect of bigger breasts, tighter stomachs or more lustrous skin, are the patients doomed to disappointment.
“We have reached a stage where public expectation, driven by media hype and, dare one say, professional greed, has brought us to a ‘perfect storm' in the cosmetic surgical market,” Nigel Mercer said.
An estimated 100,000 cosmetic surgical procedures are performed in Britain each year, many by doctors who have had no specialist training in cosmetic surgery. In addition, hundreds of thousands of non-surgical procedures are done, including Botox for wrinkles and laser peels to rejuvenate skin, many by non-medical staff.
But Mr Mercer, who combines private practice as a cosmetic surgeon specialising in facelifts with his work as an NHS consultant in reconstructive surgery for cancer patients, said the market for cosmetic surgery, of which Baaps surgeons account for less than one third, was an “unregulated mess”.
“There has been a massive increase in marketing, including discount vouchers, two-for-one offers and holidays with surgery,” he continued.
“In no other area of medicine is there such an unregulated mess. What is worse is that national governments would not allow it to happen in other areas of medicine.
“Imagine a two-for-one advert for general surgery. That way lies madness.”
Mr Mercer, in the journal Clinical Risk, warns that “the doctor's first duty to protect the patient” has been forgotten in the headlong rush to cash in.
“The motive for performing any procedure must never be financial gain ... if we cannot self-regulate then regulation will eventually be imposed,” he added.