Can I make a claim for a botched cosmetic surgery?

Quick answer

Yes, in some circumstances. If your procedure was carried out by a plastic surgeon or registered cosmetic practitioner, you may have a claim for medical negligence.

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In depth answer

With the rise in popularity of cosmetic procedures and body modifications—from permanent implants to temporary injectables like filler—there has been a corresponding increase in the number of people looking to make medical negligence claims for botched cosmetic procedures.

For a medical negligence claim to be successful, you must prove that a medical professional breached their ‘duty to care’ to you. Medical professionals who owe you a duty of care include doctors, nurses and dentists, as well as public and private organisations such as hospitals. If a registered plastic surgeon or registered cosmetic practitioner botched your cosmetic surgery, they owed you a duty of care and you may have a claim.

Cosmetic vs plastic surgery

If you had cosmetic surgery or body modifications, these practitioners do not, unfortunately, owe you a duty of care. The Medical Board of Australia provides the following definitions as to cosmetic medical and surgical procedures:

Medical and surgical procedures are operations and other procedures that revise or change the appearance, colour, texture, structure or position of normal bodily features with the dominant purpose of achieving what the patient perceives to be a more desirable appearance or boosting the patient’s self-esteem.

  • Major cosmetic medical and surgical procedures (‘cosmetic surgery’) involve cutting beneath the skin. Examples include: breast augmentation, breast reduction, rhinoplasty, surgical face lifts and liposuction.
  • Minor (non-surgical) cosmetic medical procedures do not involve cutting beneath the skin, but may involve piercing the skin. Examples include: nonsurgical cosmetic varicose vein treatment, laser skin treatments, use of CO2 lasers to cut the skin, mole removal for purposes of appearance, laser hair removal, dermabrasion, chemical peels, injections, microsclerotherapy and hair replacement therapy
Anyone claiming to be a doctor, dentist or nurse, must be registered to practice in Australia. Check the national online register of practitioners on the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
This is where you can make sure the practitioners involved in your procedure are registered in Australia.
It is important to note that a significant injury has to have occurred from the cosmetic procedure for it to be considered a viable claim. A slight reaction such as minor scarring, a rash or bruising will not satisfy the test for medical negligence.

What to do about a botched cosmetic procedure

If you have suffered an injury at the hands of a cosmetic therapist, such as a beauty therapist or tattooist that is known to perform body modification procedures, then unfortunately you do not have a medical negligence claim. Instead, you may be able to make a public liability claim for their ‘provision of service’.

You may also make a formal complaint to your state’s health ombudsman or health care complaints commission, who will investigate your complaint. On certain occasions, the ombudsman or commission’s findings can result in you having a claim.

Links to the relevant state complaints commissions can be found below:

NSW – Health Care Complaints Commission

QLD – Office of the Health Ombudsman

WA – Health and Disability Services Complaints Office

VIC – Health Complaints Commissioner

TAS – Health Complaints Commissioner Tasmania

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