Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Thinking about having cosmetic surgery?
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Thinking about having cosmetic surgery?

No matter how simple it may seem, every cosmetic procedure or surgery carries risk. Even if you’ve done it before, it’s important that you think carefully about your decision every time. Here are some things you should consider to make sure you are fully informed.

You need to see a GP first

From 1 July 2023, anyone considering cosmetic surgery must first get a referral from their GP. Even if you are not seeing a specialist such as a plastic surgeon, you will need to get a referral from your usual GP before you can have a consultation with the doctor who will perform your cosmetic surgery. A referral will provide important patient medical information to the practitioner performing the surgery and is an extra safety measure for you before you have surgery.

Choose a health practitioner who is qualified to carry out the surgery

When considering cosmetic surgery procedures, such as breast augmentation, choose someone who is registered to practise in Australia. You can check this on our national online register of practitioners. The register shows whether the practitioner has general registration as a doctor (medical practitioner) or specialist registration (such as a plastic surgeon). If you can’t find your doctor on the register, ask for their registration number.

Searching the register may not be enough to tell you whether they are qualified and experienced in the specific procedure that they will perform.

Some medical practitioners have undertaken additional training in cosmetic surgery. To understand their experience you should ask about their qualifications, experience and rates of complication or revision surgery.

To make these choices easier for consumers, we are working towards an ‘endorsement’ model. This will mean that practitioners who have completed specific accredited cosmetic surgery training will have this endorsement listed on their registration for the public to see. Work is underway for this change to come into effect later 2023.

Who can call themselves a ‘cosmetic surgeon’?

Currently, any registered medical practitioner can call themselves a cosmetic surgeon. Health Ministers are progressing proposed amendments to the National Law to restrict which medical practitioners can call themselves ‘surgeon’ to medical practitioners holding specialist registration in surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, or ophthalmology. Specialist registration is listed on a practitioner’s entry on the register of practitioners. Work is underway for this change to come into effect later in 2023.

Have I been provided with enough information to provide informed consent?

The doctor who will perform the surgery must provide you with enough information to make an informed decision about whether or not to have the surgery. In addition to information about their qualifications, you should also be given information about:

  • what the surgery involves
  • the risks and possible complications
  • the recovery period and any restrictions or additional treatment you will require
  • total cost including details of deposits required and payment dates, refund of deposits, payments for follow-up care and possible further costs for revision surgery or additional treatment
  • the complaints process and how to make a complaint.

You should be given the opportunity before the surgery to ask any questions or seek extra information from your doctor.

There must be a cooling-off period (of at least seven days) after you give consent, before you book the surgery (or pay).

Where is the procedure or surgery taking place? Is it clean? Is it safe?

All cosmetic surgery must be performed in a facility that is appropriate for the level of risk involved in the procedure and the risk profile of the patient.

If something doesn’t feel right about the place you are having your surgery, you always have the right to say no.

What medicines, medical devices or other health products are being used?

The procedure or surgery you are considering will likely involve a medicine and/or medical device. You can check that any medicine and/or medical device that will be used in the procedure or surgery is approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). You can check whether a medicine or medical device is approved for supply by looking for it in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).

Other resources

Department of Health

Page reviewed 1/05/2024