Guidelines for medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery and procedures (PDF, 148KB)
These guidelines have been developed by the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) under section 39 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law) as in force in each state and territory.
These guidelines aim to inform registered medical practitioners and the community about the Board’s expectations of medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery and non-surgical cosmetic 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 surgery and non-surgical cosmetic procedures. They should be read in conjunction with Good medical practice. Medical practitioners should also refer to other relevant guidelines such as the Board’s guidance on telehealth consultations.
The guidelines are in two sections with separate guidance for cosmetic surgery and for non-surgical cosmetic procedures.
These guidelines apply to medical practitioners registered under the National Law who perform cosmetic surgery and non-surgical cosmetic procedures.
Cosmetic surgery and 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.1
Cosmetic surgery involves cutting beneath the skin. Examples include breast augmentation, abdominoplasty, rhinoplasty, blepharoplasty, surgical face lifts, cosmetic genital surgery, and liposuction and fat transfer.
Non-surgical cosmetic procedures do not involve cutting beneath the skin but may involve piercing the skin. Examples include cosmetic injectables such as Botulinum toxin and dermal fillers (also known as soft tissue fillers), fat dissolving injections, thread lifts, sclerotherapy and microsclerotherapy, CO2 laser skin resurfacing, cryolipolysis (fat freezing), laser hair removal, dermabrasion, chemical peels and hair transplants.2 Mole removal for the purposes of appearance is classified as non-surgical even though it may involve cutting beneath the skin.
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.
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 or aesthetic reasons. They do not apply to reconstructive surgery.
Gender affirmation surgery is not considered cosmetic surgery.
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.
The Board acknowledges the Final report – Independent review of the regulation of medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery and the following organisations’ codes and guidelines, which informed the development and update of the Board’s guidelines:
Date of issue: 1 July 2023
The Board will review these guidelines from time to time as required. This will generally be at least every five years.