Practice makes perfect?
The demand for cosmetic surgery in Hong Kong is on the rise as more and more patients pursue the “perfect” image. But for doctors, providing these services in an unregulated environment can be risky business. Rachel Seddon investigates
How many times do you need to perform a medical procedure before you feel comfortable doing it without any supervision or reference material to guide you? Some medical schools still use a model of “see one, do one, teach one” to train students in carrying out procedures.1 But if a patient comes to you asking for cosmetic treatment that you have no prior experience in, how would you respond?
For doctors, conducting plastic surgery is an area of practice fraught with difficulties. There are currently no regulations in Hong Kong to govern who can and cannot provide cosmetic treatments; as long as you hold a licence to practise, you are considered qualified.2,3 Clearly, this means inexperienced doctors may end up performing procedures outside their competence; many others may face ethical dilemmas if they fail to fully understand what is expected of them.
What’s more, without regulations to govern what doctors can and can’t do, doctors are unsurprisingly finding themselves at the receiving end of more complaints than ever when patients don’t get the end result they were hoping for.
This is not a new issue; the Hong Kong Medical Association has been campaigning for regulations to be developed for plastic surgeons for more than ten years. In 2006, it proposed to the Legislative Council that: “All material to be injected, or implanted into the body has to be registered... Such procedures, whether carried out by needle injection or by surgery, will be a medical procedure, and may only be performed by a registered medical practitioner with the necessary training.”4