Why the title ‘surgeon’ matters

The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is working with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) to protect the use of the title of ‘surgeon’.

While some may dismiss this as a turf war between plastic surgeons and cosmetic practitioners who use the title, this initiative is regrettably necessary because of an important public health issue that directly impacts patient safety.

Unfortunately, in recent years there have been a disturbing number of surgical patients who have suffered major complications at the hands of doctors with no formal Australian Medical Council (AMC)-accredited specialist surgical training. Yet they advertise themselves as fully trained ‘cosmetic surgeons’.

Many of their patients mistakenly believed the person performing their procedure was a fully trained and accredited surgeon. The consequences of this have been significant – in some cases devastating.

Some of these commercial operators are propelled by social media and aggressive marketing, and their techniques make it difficult for consumers to discriminate between providers, which is increasingly compromised by the lack of protection around the use of the title ‘surgeon’.

Too often, people, insecure about their appearance, are persuaded that a surgical procedure will resolve their discomfort without fully understanding the associated risks. When confronted with advertising or websites promoting ‘cosmetic surgeons’ most, not unreasonably, assume that the title refers to the appropriate level of officially sanctioned training and assessment typically associated with those called a ‘surgeon’.

In other words, it is assumed that these practitioners have the same skills as a specialist bearing the letters ‘FRACS’ after their name.

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SURGICAL NEWS Vol.21 Issue 04

Professor Mark Ashton
MBBS MD FRACS
Specialist Plastic Surgeon
RACS Specialty Elected
Councillor
Past President, ASPS

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