Cosmetic Procedures: New NSW Laws

Recently, the New South Wales government cracked down on elective cosmetic surgery procedures by amending the law to better protect patients in New South Wales. The Medical Board of Australia has also introduced tougher guidelines which aim to increase the safety of patients around Australia.

We previously commented in this space late last year, when the New South Wales government was reviewing their cosmetic surgery laws, specifically the Private Health Facilities Act 2007 (NSW) and Private Health Facilities Regulation 2010 (NSW).

This review was in response to reports of several young women who were rushed to hospital after suffering cardiac arrests whilst undergoing elective breast augmentations. These incidents occurred as a result of high doses of local anaesthetic drugs being administered to the patients, which ultimately acted as dangerous general anaesthetics.  It should be stressed that these patients had not agreed to an unconscious sedation and this medical facility, like many others, was not licensed to administer a general anaesthetic.

In turn, these incidents brought to light the fact that cosmetic procedures can and are being undertaken in unaccredited or unlicensed facilities, where there is often no quality assurance. The New South Wales government recognised that this poses major risks to patients as authorities are not able to closely monitor these facilities.

New Cosmetic Surgery Class

In response to these concerns, on 3 June 2016, the New South Wales government introduced the Private Health Facilities Amendment (Cosmetic Surgery) Regulation 2016 (NSW) which added a new Cosmetic Surgery Class.

This new class requires any facilities that currently carry out cosmetic surgeries such as tummy tucks, breast augmentation or liposuction, to obtain a licence before 3 March 2017. These amendments will ensure that any unaccredited or unlicensed facilities will now be held to the same standards that currently apply to private health facilities.

Fortunately, cosmetic surgery patients within New South Wales will soon be better protected because of the strict licensing requirements that the New South Wales government is implementing.

Unfortunately for Queensland, our state government is yet to follow in New South Wales’ footsteps. So for now, Queensland cosmetic patients will need to rely on medical practitioners following the amended Medical Board of Australia guidelines.

New guidelines from the Medical Board of Australia

These stricter Medical Board of Australia guidelines, which will be imposed on all medical practitioners carrying out medical or cosmetic procedures, will come into effect 1st October 2016.

These guidelines aim to better protect patients by implementing:

  • A seven day cooling off period for adults undertaking major cosmetic procedures, and for minors undertaking minor cosmetic procedures;
  • A three month cooling off period for minors undertaking major cosmetic procedures, as well as mandatory counselling by a general practitioner, psychologist or psychiatrist;
  • Explicit responsibility of the treating practitioner for their patients post-operative care, and emergency facilities when using anaesthesia or sedation;
  • A mandatory consultation for patients considering prescription-only cosmetic injectables; and
  • Detailed written information about costs to be provided by treating practitioners to patients.

Research has shown that most patients often consider having cosmetic surgery for years prior to making a decision. Once they make the decision however, they then opt to have the surgery urgently, in order to minimise the time they dwell on the risks.

These new guidelines will essentially remove a patient’s ability to make a rash decision on cosmetic surgery and allow them time to better consider the risks of the procedure they are undertaking.

Queensland Legislation Regarding Cosmetic Procedures

All of the amendments made by the New South Wales Government and the Medical Board of Australia are a step in the right direction for patient safety within Australia.

As mentioned earlier, we can only hope that the Queensland Government follows suit with the New South Wales amendments. Until such time as similar changes are made in Queensland, if you are considering undertaking a cosmetic procedure, you should ensure that you are cautious and do your research.

If something has gone wrong as a result of a cosmetic procedure in Queensland, and you have been unable to resolve it with your medical practitioner, you have a number of options available to you:

    1. Make a complaint to the Office of the Health Ombudsman (OHO).

    The OHO is Queensland’s independent health service complaint’s agency. They will be able to investigate your complaint and decide on any action to be taken, to ensure the public’s health and safety is paramount.

    It should be noted that complaints to the OHO are not limited to doctors and can be made against other health service providers such as physiotherapists and dentists.

    More information on making a complaint to the Office of the Health Ombudsman can be found on their website at

    1. Bring a claim for medical negligence

    In Australia, all medical and health care practitioners owe their patients a duty of care to perform their services competently and with reasonable care and skill. This also extends to failing to warn patients of the possible risks and adverse outcomes of their procedure or treatment.

    If you have sustained a personal injury in Queensland due to a medical or health practitioner’s negligence, then you may bring a medical negligence claim against them.

    A medical negligence claim in Queensland is brought under the Personal Injuries Proceedings Act 2002. In order to be successful in a medical negligence claim you must prove:

    • That the medical or health practitioner was negligent by failing to provide the reasonable standard of care and skill expected of them; and
    • That as a result of their negligence, you have suffered a personal injury.

If you are considering cosmetic surgery, we encourage you to really assess your options and ensure that your practitioner is well-qualified and the anaesthetic options are in your best interests. Researching your options, fully understanding the risks and picking a provider based on skill, qualification and practice type, not price, are some of the best ways to ensure that you are minimising your overall risks.

Unfortunately, sometimes things do go wrong. If you have sustained a personal injury as a result of a cosmetic surgery or any other medical treatment or procedure, you should consult an experienced personal injury lawyer to discuss your options and your right to compensation.

Our team are experts in medical negligence claims and you can confidentially discuss your options, for free, today. Give us a call or submit a free case review form and we will be in touch.

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