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The Ugly Side
Choice Survey
Myths & Facts

The Surgeons

The ugly side of cosmetic surgery
Media Release
Call for greater regulation of Cosmetic Surgery.

The Choice consumer group has released a survey of cosmetic surgery practices with additional commentaries by The Australian, ABC News, The Daily Telegraph, The Canberra Times  and The Herald Sun  on Wednesday, 25 February 2009.


An interview where the Choice editor discusses the findings of the survey is available by clicking here.
The cosmetic industry is growing rapidly. From print ads and radio spots to glossy magazines dedicated to promoting the latest surgical techniques, cosmetic surgery has never been more in our faces.
But just when you thought it was safe to book yourself in for a little work in Australia, an undercover investigation by consumer group Choice has revealed some disturbing truths - The investigation exposed the highly unprofessional and dangerous practises of some clinics that might just make you think twice.
The survey
In order to find out how some cosmetic surgery clinics operate, Choice recruited three women as shadow shoppers.

The women visited 30 cosmetic surgery clinics in Sydney and Brisbane, requesting consultations for breast augmentation, liposuction and Botox, and reported back on their experiences.

Choice then formally invited members of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) to give expert opinions on how these consultations were conducted.

The results
Breast augmentation

Breast augmentation is one of the most popular cosmetic procedures, as well as one of the most emotive. Choice's shadow shopper visited 30 clinics and uncovered some appalling examples of unprofessional behaviour, including;

  • Being shown the breasts of one of the sales consultants as an example of the doctor's work.
  • Being told by one doctor that she "needed" to have the surgery done.
  • Being offered a discount if she agreed to have "before" and "after" photos of her breasts published on the internet.
  • Being told that if she had her breasts enlarged it would increase her chances of finding a partner!

The ASPS experts rated overall explanation of the procedure's potential risks as particularly bad
The shadow shopper was not comprehensively informed by the doctors about dangers such as haematoma, infection, leakage or scarring. Some doctors didn't even ask why she was considering the treatment.


Liposuction is another popular procedure, but also one of the most dangerous.

It usually involves pumping the "problem" area with liquid before sucking fat out of the body.

It can be painful and requires a high level of post-operative care.

The shadow shopper used for this case was rated by ASPS experts as a poor candidate for liposuction - they suggested she would need to lose weight first and that an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) would probably be more suitable.

While the general advice about liposuction was sound, not all the doctors stated how many surgeries they had performed - and even when they did, they remained ambiguous.

Very few doctors mentioned their actual qualifications and accreditations, hence placing the onus on the patient to do all the asking.


Botox doesn't involve surgery and nowadays seems an everyday treatment, even on offer at so-called "Botox parties" held in private homes.

Despite this image, it is still a risky procedure and not suitable for all candidates.
It's also critical that potential clients are questioned thoroughly before undertaking the treatment, particularly if there is a possibility the patient is pregnant (an Australian baby was born with severe defects possibly as a result of the mother using a virtually identical treatment to Botox in her first week of pregnancy).

The ASPS experts didn't consider the shadow shopper a suitable candidate for Botox and suggested other alternatives would work better for the deep line on her forehead.


She received varying advice from the clinics she visited.

One doctor said Botox would not be suitable as she would be unable to use her eyebrows to express herself; instead recommending a filler, which Choice's experts felt was reasonable advice.

However, nine doctors recommended both a filler and Botox.

Dangers of cosmetic surgery
Plastic surgery complications can vary from scarring to fatalities and the effects of surgery can sometimes be traumatizing to patients both physically and psychologically.

The risks of plastic surgery will diverge depending on the individual and the procedure you opt for.

Scarring is one of the most frequent risks that people considering plastic surgery should be alert of.

Most surgeons will try to hide incision lines in places where they aren't noticeable but most surgeries will still result in permanent scarring.
Bleeding and infections are probable after surgery, but if these complications are caught early on they can usually be treated.
Nerve damage is a serious difficulty that people considering plastic surgery must be aware of.

Some people who undergo plastic surgery will lose feeling in the area that was operated on while others may experience problems moving muscles in the area where the surgery was performed.
Other dangers include: sensory damage around the operation site, discoloration of the skin, tissue necrosis, asymmetry, abnormal looking features, premature aging and allergic reactions to sedation.

How to protect yourself

  • Do your research
  • Check qualifications and experience
  • Ask for references
  • Understand the procedure
  • Know the side effects

Questions to ask if you are considering plastic surgery:
1 - What are your qualifications and experience?

2 - How many times have you performed the procedure?

3 - Can I speak to previous patients?

4 - Are there any complications associated with the procedure?

5 - If complications do occur or the procedure is not successful, how will you deal with this?

6 - Are there other post-operative side-effects?

7 - Will there be any visible scarring following the procedure? How can this be minimised?

8 - What aftercare will be provided and will this be included in the treatment costs?
Reaction to the survey from other media