Australia to introduce raft of new cosmetic surgery guidelines, including psychological assessment before surgery

Aussies hoping for a nip, tuck or tweak will soon need to undergo psychological assessment before any cosmetic surgery, as per sweeping new rules to be introduced later this year. 

The new guidelines were written by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and the Medical Board of Australia, based on 16 recommendations from an independent review following public consultation.

The regulations cover any cosmetic surgery that breaches the skin, including the likes of Botox, face lifts, fillers, and boob and nose jobs.

In a significant addition to the country's cosmetic surgery guidelines, from July 1 prospective patients will need to provide a referral from a GP - independent of the practitioner - before being eligible for their desired cosmetic procedure.

They are then required to undergo a compulsory psychological assessment by the practitioner intending to perform the surgery, using a validated psychological screening tool to screen for body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).

The patient and practitioner must discuss the motivations for the surgery, which may include possible red flags such as a "perceived need to please others" or "strong feelings about appearance". Patients will also need to disclose if another practitioner has declined to provide them cosmetic surgery in the past.

If patients are found to have psychological conditions such as BDD, they must be referred to a psychologist, psychiatrist or GP independent of the practitioner, according to the guidelines. A patient with body dysmorphia may not be permitted to undergo cosmetic surgery, as practitioners are required to decline a procedure if they believe it's not in the patient's best interests.

Any patient seeking cosmetic surgery must have at least two preoperative consultations, as well as a cooling-off period of at least seven days after the second consultation before any booking or deposit can be made. 

The Medical Board has also announced a raft of new advertising guidelines for practitioners or clinics that offer cosmetic surgery. An AHPRA spokesperson confirmed to 7News that from July 1, 18 'buzzwords', terms or phrases - such as "perfect", "hot", and "younger" - will be banned from appearing in advertising for surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures, including on social media. Advertising must also not contain emojis or hashtags, sexualised images, testimonials, or feature social media influencers. 

Some examples of words and terms which clearly breach the guidelines, according to the spokesperson, are "artistry", "silhouette", "sculpting", "gentle", "simple", "safe", "quick", "rapid", "easy", "designer vagina", "Barbie", "transformation", "amazing", "perfect", "boob job", "tummy tuck", and "Brazilian butt lift". 

"Advertising must not downplay recovery or mislead patients in relation to the experience of pain and recovery... [the] surgery's complexity, duration, potential side effects or potential complications," the spokesperson told 7News, who noted that the list is not exhaustive.

Non-clinical adjectives and marketing techniques or terms which idealise cosmetic surgery should not be used, as well as colloquial or non-clinical terms, unless they are accompanied by the medical name for the surgery (for example, practitioners will not be able to use the word 'boob job' in their advertising or social media unless it's also referred to by its clinical name, breast augmentation, also known as augmentation mammoplasty).

Those who breach the new rules, which will be rolled out from July 1, could face fines or lose their right to practise.

"False or misleading advertising has never been acceptable," the AHPRA told 7News in a statement. "The updated cosmetic surgery practice guidelines and new advertising guidelines provide greater protection to patients."

The existing guidelines in Australia have always prohibited advertising that is misleading or deceptive; offers discounts without terms and conditions; uses testimonials; creates unreasonable expectations; or encourages indiscriminate use, according to local media.

The new regulations have been met with a divided response, with Australian reality television personality and Married At First Sight star Jessika Power - who has undergone Botox, fillers, and an autologous fat transfer - arguing it's "the people's choice" whether to undergo cosmetic surgery.

"You can't make a decision for somebody if they want to improve or change something about themselves," she told Radio 3AW. "They're [psychologists] going to be inundated with requests from young women, young men and where is that going to take the healthcare system?

"I mean, if you're old enough to have it done then you're old enough to make your own choices and that's all it should be."

Discussing the guidelines on AM on Wednesday morning, host Ryan Bridge also took issue with the need for psychological assessment, while co-host Melissa Chan-Green noted the new rules could place additional stress and pressure on Australia's mental health services.

"Does wanting bigger boobs make you crazy? I don't understand why this is an issue… I think we're all adults, we can make our own decisions," Bridge said.

"Do we really need to get everything signed off by a psychiatrist? I think it's a bit over the top, personally."