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One of the most common questions that I am asked is what is your accreditation as a cosmetic surgery and does a specialty make a difference as far as results and the risk of being sued in court. I am a specialist dermatologic surgeon and also the liposuction representative on the Surgical Subcommittee of the Australasian College of Dermatologists. My interest has been in cosmetic surgery with nearly 25 years of personal experience in many procedures from resurfacing of the skin, facial rejuvenation, liposculpture, and many advanced procedures.
The other accredited specialty for cosmetic surgery is plastic surgeons. They are accredited through the Australasian Society of Plastic Surgeons. They do a number of extra years in general surgery and concentrate on plastic surgery, particularly surgery of the hand and burns. Plastic surgeons may also then further sub-specialize into further interests in cosmetic surgery. The other group of surgeons who perform surgery in Australia are cosmetic surgerys. They may be general surgeons or general practitioners with no specialist accreditation through the government but have taken an interest in a procedure. Certainly, as a dermatologist, I like to believe that my training in understanding the skin does make a big difference as how to treat patients and certainly one would hope it would reduce the risk of getting sued in court as per the initial question.
The reality is that there are very good cosmetic surgerys without specialty accreditation and very good dermatologists with specialist accreditations and vice versa. There are bad ones even with different types of specialty and accreditations. At the end of the day, training only brings a doctor to a certain point. Then the results are all dependent on how good the surgeon is, on his skill, on his understanding of patients and how well he can bring that all together. All doctors in Australia are covered for court and litigation against being sued by medical defense.
There is one large medical defense in Australia called Avant and a number other smaller companies. These companies have underwriters and these companies do represent doctors for all different types of issues that arise. Doctors are also brought to court as expert witnesses. I have been asked to attend court on a number of occasions, particularly from burns related to eye-peels and laser treatments and also burns and traumas to skin, related to work. At different times, I have been asked for opinions regarding patients who have sued other cosmetic and plastic surgeons. I find it very important that before giving an opinion, one really understands what procedure was done and what the surgeon had discussed with the patient beforehand. It is very easy to knock a previous surgeon. It is important to be honest and truthful and respect the rights of every surgeon.
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