Cosmetic surgery solicitor Michael Saul explains why there is a need for a dedicated law firm to deal with cosmetic surgery claims and discusses his concerns over the lack of regulation of the cosmetic procedure industry that currently allows anyone to offer Botox and dermal filler treatments.
LM: Who is Michael Saul, and what does he do?
I’m the founding partner of Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors, the first specialist legal department in England and Wales dedicated to helping victims of negligent cosmetic surgery.
We established Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors in 2005 as our partner law firm, TJL Solicitors, was starting to receive increasing numbers of enquiries from people who had experienced negligent cosmetic surgery. At the time, there was no other law firm in England and Wales that focused on this field of law as dealing with these kinds of cases can be complex, requiring specialist medical and legal knowledge.
When pursuing a claim for a client, we take into consideration the more obvious physical damage caused by negligent surgeons – such as asymmetrical breasts, the collapse of the nose following a rhinoplasty, or inappropriate scarring after a tummy tuck. We then incorporate the emotional harm caused. As you can probably imagine, opting to undergo cosmetic surgery is very much tied into a person’s sense of self. Many of our clients have pinned a lot of hope on their surgery, so when it goes wrong, it can be all the more devastating.
There is also the financial cost to consider. Not only can cosmetic surgery cost thousands of pounds upfront in the first instance, it can cost even more to try and correct the botched procedure – all of which lands on the patient.
Finally, we can also help patients who were inadequately prepared for their surgery. There are some complications that can follow a procedure that is beyond the control of the surgeon or clinic offering the treatment. However, if the surgeon did not warn the patient appropriately in advance of the risk of these complications, then there may also be a case for compensation.
LM: What kinds of cases does Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors see?
We see a full range of cases, everything from breast augmentations to liposuctions, arm lifts to facelifts, labiaplasties to hair transplants. The most common enquiry that we receive is for cosmetic breast surgeries, although this may be due to the fact that it is the UK’s most popular surgery.
In addition, we also specialise in dental surgery claims, including cosmetic treatments like teeth whitening, implants and veneers, but also routine procedures such as fillings, extractions, root canal and gum disease. Like cosmetic surgeons, dentists have a duty of care to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their patients. If any harm befalls their patient during or as a result of a procedure that could have been avoided or prevented, then the dentist may be held accountable.
LM: Do you deal with cosmetic procedures, Botox and dermal fillers, and so on?
While the majority of our cases are from invasive surgeries, we are seeing a growing number of people coming to us for help after receiving a botched cosmetic treatment, such as dermal fillers, Botox, chemical peels and laser hair removal.
This is because the non-surgical cosmetic industry is unregulated, meaning that anyone can set up shop and start offering these treatments. And, with the advent of social media – particularly Instagram and Snapchat – increasing numbers of people are wanting to undergo these procedures in order to replicate the look they see online.
Typically, the types of ‘tweakment’ cases we see involve excessive localised swelling, permanent scarring and nerve damage. Perhaps the most extreme case was a client who suffered permanent vision after a self-styled ‘cosmetic doctor’ injected facial filler into the central retinal artery.
Currently, there is no official NHS-backed training that cosmetic practitioners must undergo in order to become qualified. There is no government body setting or enforcing safety standards. There is no unified member organisation to monitor individual practitioners or give prospective patients guidance on which practitioners are safe, insured and skilled.
For all of these reasons, the non-surgical aesthetic industry is of huge concern to us. While there are many credible and safe practitioners out there, there is no real way for the general public to really know who they are dealing with. And social media has also given a new platform for so-called beauticians to reach their target audience and advertise their services. If something goes wrong, it is all too easy for these practitioners to disappear simply by deleting their account, then reappearing later under a new name.
We speak out regularly about the need for better regulation of this industry, and we are also currently campaigning for the government to introduce more restrictions on Instagram so that the young and vulnerable are protected from seeing unsuitable images.
LM: What advice would you give someone who is looking to undergo a cosmetic procedure?
The key is research. If you want to have surgery, then your first port of call should be to visit your GP who can recommend local trusted surgeons and clinics. You can also ask friends or family for recommendations; however, we advise that you check that any surgeon who is suggested to you is on the General Medical Council’s specialist register for plastic surgery. As a general rule of thumb, we advise that your surgeon should be currently working for the NHS.
Once you have got a shortlist of two or three surgeons, prepare a list of questions (we have a recommended list here) and book in for a consultation with them – and it must be with the surgeon who will perform your operation, not a patient care coordinator or clinic manager. Make sure they answer your questions fully and to your satisfaction.
Finally, take your time. The official advice is to take two weeks ‘cooling-off’ to consider all of your options before committing to surgery. Do not be tempted by any pressure from the surgeon or clinic to sign up for an operation before you are ready, and this includes any financial incentives they may offer.
As a footnote, we also recommend that patients avoid the temptation of ‘medical tourism’. While surgeons and clinics in Turkey and other locations abroad will offer cheaper rates on cosmetic procedures than here in the UK, travelling overseas comes with many avoidable risks.
For example, clinics in Europe and further afield may not adhere to the same standards as in England, and so the quality of service you receive may be lesser than expected. There are also challenges of language barriers and aftercare – you can read more about these issues here. And, simply put, if something does go wrong with your surgery, then you will be unable to claim for compensation in the UK.
Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors – Where and how?
If you would like to get hold of Michael or find out more about Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors, please visit www.cosmeticsurgerysolicitors.co.uk.
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