Medical Board of Australia - Advertising cosmetic surgery – Changes are coming

Advertising cosmetic surgery – Changes are coming

26 Oct 2022

The Medical Board of Australia (the Medical Board) and Ahpra are making changes to how cosmetic surgery can be advertised.

These changes are being made as part of implementing the recommendations from the Independent review of the regulation of medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery (the independent review) by Ahpra and the Medical Board.

Independent review of the regulation of medical practitioners who perform cosmetic surgery

In November 2021, Ahpra and the Medical Board commissioned an external, independent review of patient safety issues in the cosmetic surgery industry, including how to strengthen regulation of medical practitioners in the industry.

The final report from the independent review was released on 1 September 2022 and made 16 recommendations to improve patient safety in the cosmetic surgery sector. Four of these recommendations were about cosmetic surgery advertising. 

Ahpra and the Medical Board have accepted all the recommendations from the independent review. 

What is cosmetic surgery?

Cosmetic surgery is defined as any operation that involves cutting beneath the skin to revise or change the appearance of normal bodily features where there is otherwise no clinical or functional need for the procedure. Examples of cosmetic surgery include breast implants, abdominoplasty, rhinoplasty, surgical face lifts and liposuction.

What is the issue with cosmetic surgery advertising?

Cosmetic surgery advertising has particular factors that increase public risk. Because of this, cosmetic surgery advertising which breaches the National Law has now been categorised as high-risk, subject to stronger regulatory action and/or prosecution. 

What changes will be made to cosmetic surgery advertising?

Ahpra and the Medical Board have started work to revise the Guidelines for registered medical practitioners who perform cosmetic medical and surgical procedures (Cosmetic surgery guidelines). We are also developing specific guidelines for medical practitioners who advertise cosmetic surgical procedures to support balanced and acceptable advertising about cosmetic surgery. 

The Guidelines for medical practitioners who advertise cosmetic surgery will clarify the standards expected of cosmetic surgery advertising and reiterate the ban on testimonials. 

They will make clear that cosmetic surgery advertising should not:

  1. glamorise and trivialise cosmetic surgical procedures 
  2. downplay the risk of cosmetic surgery or specific cosmetic procedures
  3. use single images of bodies, including stock images, patient photos, models and celebrities, rather than before and after images to advertise cosmetic surgery
  4. promote cosmetic surgery using paid social media influencers 
  5. use content that criticises normal body appearance and suggests or implies cosmetic surgery is needed to ‘fix’ normal variations or that promotes the idea of only one acceptable body type 
  6. target young people or other groups at greater risk of harm with advertising (including through algorithms and other marketing technology).

Additionally, the Guidelines for medical practitioners who advertise cosmetic surgery will make clear that cosmetic surgery advertising should:

  1. accurately explain the range of results that consumers can reasonably expect from a procedure 
  2. limit claims in advertising to those that are objectively demonstrable and provable (generally this is physical changes and not psychological benefits which may not be supported by acceptable evidence) 
  3. use any video content responsibly, for information and/or education only and not present surgical procedures as entertainment, and 
  4. strengthen procedures for informed consent on the use of patients’ before and after photos and video material.

What does this mean for cosmetic surgery advertising?

Ahpra and the Medical Board will be releasing revised cosmetic surgery guidelines and proposed Guidelines for medical practitioners who advertise cosmetic surgery for comment soon on the Medical Board’s consultation webpage

In the meantime, medical practitioners or others who advertise cosmetic surgery procedures should ensure their advertising complies with:

Advertisers are encouraged to consider the findings of the independent review.

 
 
Page reviewed 26/10/2022