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Specialist clinical negligence solicitor, Sara Westwood, explores why the lack of regulation within the cosmetic surgery industry is putting patients at risk.

There has been much in the news recently about the use of cosmetic procedures such as botox and fillers and the lack of regulation in this area. I share concerns regarding the poor regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry and much needs to be done to protect the often-vulnerable patients who pay significant sums of money for cosmetic services.

Proper regulation of the industry would ensure that clinics and surgeons have adequate insurance in place for these procedures. Inadequate insurance is a common feature of the legal cases brought to me by clients wanting to seek compensation when something goes wrong.

In 2013 a client who I was instructed by had contacted a cosmetic surgery clinic based in the UK to seek weight loss surgery. The clinic arranged for him to have the surgery in the Czech Republic for a fee of £4,000.00. He had the surgery in October 2013 but was disappointed to find he wasn’t losing weight as expected and sought a second opinion from a well known and reputable Private Hospital Group. Investigations revealed that the surgeon had done very little to change the size of his stomach - hence the reason he wasn’t losing weight. He complained to the clinic who arranged for him to have the procedure repeated - again in the Czech Republic - at a reduced fee of £2,000.00. He underwent the second operation in February 2015 but once again failed to lose the weight expected. Another second opinion by the private hospital revealed that yet again, the surgeon had failed to perform the appropriate procedure.

By this time my client had, understandably, lost faith in the Czech surgeon and the clinic who had referred him there. He took the decision to have a third operation at the private hospital which had provided the second opinions. However, it cost him however another £10,500.00.

He consulted me to establish whether there might be a claim against the clinic. My enquiries found the clinic had ceased trading although they had set up another company in identical format almost immediately. The clinic refused to reply to my repeated requests for their insurance details so the only conclusion to be drawn is that they had no insurance cover in place. We looked into the possibility of pursuing a claim against the director of the clinic personally but legally this was unlikely to succeed and enquiries showed the director had no assets against which we could enforce any judgement.

This only left the possibility of a claim against the surgeon. To do this the client would need to sue him in the Czech Republic in accordance with Czech law and with the assistance of a Czech lawyer. The client sadly drew a blank with this.

My advice is always to check out the insurance position of the clinic and/or surgeon* before embarking on any surgery or procedure. I know it is likely to be the last thing on anyone’s mind but an adequately insured clinic and surgeon should provide peace of mind you are in safe and reputable hands and that in the event something goes wrong you have a remedy against that surgeon or clinic. 

Sara Westwood 

 *You should also check whether the surgeon, especially if a foreign national, has a UK policy of insurance as a foreign policy may mean you have to sue in the country from which the policy was issued. Please see my other blog 'Is your cosmetic surgeon adequately insured?'

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