Download a PDF of the Guidelines for registered medical practitioners who perform cosmetic medical and surgical procedures (117 KB)
These guidelines have been developed by the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) under section 39 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).
The guidelines aim to inform registered medical practitioners and the community about the Board’s expectations of medical practitioners who perform cosmetic medical and surgical procedures in Australia. These guidelines complement Good medical practice: A code of conduct for doctors in Australia (Good medical practice) and provide specific guidance for medical practitioners who perform cosmetic medical and surgical procedures. They should be read in conjunction with Good medical practice.
These guidelines apply to medical practitioners registered under the National Law who provide cosmetic medical and surgical procedures.
Cosmetic medical and surgical procedures are operations and other procedures that revise or change the appearance, colour, texture, structure or position of normal bodily features with the dominant purpose of achieving what the patient perceives to be a more desirable appearance or boosting the patient’s self-esteem.1
Major cosmetic medical and surgical procedures (‘cosmetic surgery’) involve cutting beneath the skin. Examples include; breast augmentation, breast reduction, rhinoplasty, surgical face lifts and liposuction.
Minor (non-surgical) cosmetic medical procedures do not involve cutting beneath the skin, but may involve piercing the skin. Examples include: non-surgical cosmetic varicose vein treatment, laser skin treatments, use of CO2 lasers to cut the skin, mole removal for purposes of appearance, laser hair removal, dermabrasion, chemical peels, injections, microsclerotherapy and hair replacement therapy.2
Surgery or a procedure may be medically justified if it involves the restoration, correction or improvement in the shape and appearance of body structures that are defective or damaged at birth or by injury, disease, growth or development for either functional or psychological reasons.3 Surgery and procedures that have a medical justification and which may also lead to improvement in appearance are excluded from the definition.
The medical specialty of plastic surgery includes both cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery. Reconstructive surgery differs from cosmetic surgery as, while it incorporates aesthetic techniques, it restores form and function as well as normality of appearance. These guidelines apply to plastic surgery when it is performed only for cosmetic reasons. They do not apply to reconstructive surgery.
1Definition adapted from the Medical Council of New Zealand’s Statement on cosmetic procedures (2011) and the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference Cosmetic Medical and Surgical Procedures – A National Framework (2011)
2Definitions adapted from the Medical Council of New Zealand’s Statement on cosmetic procedures (2011)
3Definition from Cosmetic surgery guidelines (Medical Council of New South Wales, 2008).
Section 41 of the National Law states that an approved registration standard or a code or guideline approved by the Board is admissible in proceedings under this Law or a law of a co-regulatory jurisdiction against a practitioner registered by the Board as evidence of what constitutes appropriate professional conduct or practice for the profession.
These guidelines can be used to assist the Board in its role of protecting the public, by setting and maintaining standards of medical practice. If a medical practitioner’s professional conduct varies significantly from these guidelines, the practitioner should be prepared to explain and justify their decisions and actions.
Serious or repeated failure to meet these guidelines may have consequences for a medical practitioner’s registration.
4Referral to a general practitioner excludes referral to general practitioners who provide cosmetic procedures.
5Referral to a general practitioner excludes referral to general practitioners who provide cosmetic procedures.
The Board acknowledges the following organisations’ codes and guidelines, which informed the development of the Board’s guidelines:
Date of issue: 1 October 2016.
The Board will review these guidelines at least every three years.