© The Sun
Plastic or Fantastic – we investigate the beauty operation industry. There is a rising trend in Ireland for cosmetic procedures – but are the standards of safety good enough?
BEAUTY may only be skin deep, but that hasn’t stopped our quest for visual perfection.
And as we’re fuelling a steady boom in cosmetic treatments, we’re slowly becoming a nation of Plastic Paddies. It’s no surprise, given that we’re bombarded with images of the ideal aesthetic from the cradle to the grave.
However, the path to perfection has always been a bumpy one. In 2009, the cosmetic industry in Ireland was valued at €50 million.
The recession, the infamous PIP implant scandal and bad press from botched treatments put a dent in that figure, but it’s on the rise again.
In 2015, however, the landscape of aesthetic treatments is very different.
We took a look at the issues that medical and legal experts are concerned about within the industry to find out whether the lack of regulation could be forcing us to pay too high a price for beauty.
Incredibly for a service that has such a huge impact on a person’s body – and life – the plastic surgery industry in Ireland is completely unregulated.
Only surgeons who have achieved the FRCS (Plast) qualification recognised by the Royal College of Surgeons are entitled to be listed on the Medical Council’s Specialist register of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery.
Currently, there are 60 people registered on this list, accounting for just 0.7 per cent of the total number of doctors in Ireland.
However, there is no law requiring a person to have specialist registration in order to practice cosmetic surgery here. All that’s needed is general registration with the Medical Council before a doctor can begin carrying out invasive procedures. And while many clinics self-regulate, ensuring that they operate to the highest standards, nobody is keeping any tabs.
There is no regulation of the products used, so breast implants and injectable fillers may contain potentially harmful ingredients.
The Irish Association of Plastic Surgeons has warned that it will take a fatality before the Government introduces adequate legislation.
Current president Margaret O’Donnell said: “We would like to see the establishment of a governing body which could coordinate all the relevant groups including the Medical Council, the Irish Medicines Board, HIQA, the Royal College of Surgeons.”
In December, the IAPS was part of a group which agreed a European standard, but adhering to it is entirely voluntary. In 2009, it was revealed that a French company had been illegally manufacturing breast implants made from industrial-grade silicone instead of medical-grade silicone, making them far more likely to rupture. Since then, France has dramatically overhauled its legislation, including banning cosmetic surgery ads and insisting on standards of qualifications for carrying out procedures. In Ireland, where an estimated 1,500 women received the faulty implants, nothing has changed, so another scandal could be just around the corner.
Dr O’Donnell explained: “All of our members would see patients on a regular basis who have had treatment elsewhere and are seeking corrective treatment. We’re very concerned about the special deals being offered by clinics, particularly in the area of mole removal.
“It’s so dangerous. You could be treating a person who has melanoma but if you remove the mole by laser then you’ve removing the evidence and a diagnosis could be missed.
“The other area with huge potential risk is dermal fillers. They aren’t classed as a drug but they are controlled by the Health Products Regulatory Authority.
“Because they’re not an active agent they can be used by a large number of people. Counterfeit products are being brought into Ireland.”
Solicitor James McSweeney says the law makes it difficult to sue medical practitioners. The majority of his cases involve young women who have undergone breast augmentation. He said: “The action of the clinics is often to offer further corrective surgery for free. This puts these young women in an extraordinarily difficult position.
“On the one hand, they can take a court case which they will probably win but it could take two to three years. In the meantime, they cannot afford to have the corrective surgery.”
Clearly, regulation is badly needed in this growing and evolving industry.
The Department of Health is currently progressing the Patient Safety Licensing Bill which is expected to include cosmetic surgery as an activity requiring a licence.
However it may not come fast enough for those who’ll pay a painful price for beauty.
RACHEL WALLACE, 25
TREATMENTS: BREAST ENHANCEMENT, BOTOX, LIP PLUMPING.
“I only decided to get my boobs done when I was researching getting a nose job. I’ve always hated my nose and I was bullied over it in school. It has ruined so many selfies.
I still want to get my nose done but it’s very expensive and it’s difficult. I’d be raging if I did it and I wasn’t happy with the result.
I got my boobs done about 18 months ago. I’d lost more than four stone in college and afterwards my boobs weren’t the same at all. I’d started modelling and I felt my boobs held me back.
From the first consultation to the surgery it was about six weeks but I’d been talking about it for six months. I thought long and hard about it and I wouldn’t advise anyone to rush into it.
I went from an A/B cup to a double D. I was fine afterwards but I couldn’t drive for two weeks or exercise for six weeks.
I thought I’d gone too big at the time because they seemed so fake but they’ve settled now. My clothes fit better and they’ve really improved my confidence.
I think everyone has their insecurities and flaws and you need to learn how to deal with them. But when it comes to plastic surgery, I think why not get it done if you really want it? It made a big difference to me.
I did try a lip plumping treatment too when I was 22 and it turned out I was allergic to it.
I’ve also tried botox and found it really good. Everyone wants to preserve their youth and it’s getting easier now.
I’ve always been open about what I’ve had done. I don’t see the point in lying. People would obviously know I’ve had something done so why hide it?”