The cosmetic industry continues to grow. In order to protect patient’s interests, there has been an increased focus on regulation of the industry and the effect of popular culture on body image.
With the explosion of social media, there appears to be a rapid increase in appearance relating postings that often promote unrealistic messages. Sadly the media does not provide balanced views on what is considered physically normal or beautiful and creates the impression that cosmetic procedures are now common or normal. This may influence patients to proceed with treatments without considering the risks. With aggressive advertising and marketing and increasing demand, it is unclear whether patients are able to make an informed choice.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has recently published a wide-ranging new report, Cosmetic procedures: ethical issues recommending that “social media companies collaborate to carry out independent research to better understand how social media contributes to appearance anxiety, and to act on the findings”.
The Keogh report in 2013 highlighted “Advertising and marketing can have a legitimate role in that they provide information and raise awareness of the choice of providers available. However, they can also play a negative role particularly if they trivialise the risks of procedures, target vulnerable consumers, or mislead by portraying an outcome that may not be attainable for many.”
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) require marketing communications to be “legal, decent, honest and truthful” and “prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society”.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has recommended that the “ASA and CAP should prohibit advertising that is likely to create body confidence issues or cause pressure to conform to unrealistic or unhealthy body shapes. The ASA should work proactively to monitor compliance with such standards. “
The use of financial inducements and time-limited deals to promote cosmetic interventions should be prohibited to avoid inappropriate influencing of vulnerable consumers.
The Nuffield Council also called on the Government to fully implement recommendations made by the Keogh report in 2013 so the public can be assured that those providing cosmetic procedures, the places where they are carried out, and the products used are all properly regulated.
The Keogh Review, GMC and Nuffield Council have recommended patients must be fully informed to proceed and should undergo a detailed consent process with the provision of sufficient information to allow them to be empowered to make this decision. The consent process must be with the surgeon carrying out the procedure.
The certification system recently introduced by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) will allow patients and providers reassurance that the surgeons carrying out cosmetic surgery have the necessary training and expertise. The RCS certification system is now open and Mr Ross has become the first cosmetic surgeon in the UK to certify in cosmetic surgery.
You can listen to the BBC radio blog below.