Cooling Off Period for Cosmetic Surgery? New Proposals for Cosmetic Surgery Guidelines

Cosmetic surgery has become increasingly popular in recent years. The perceived need to look a certain way and to use surgery as a means to self improvement has become available to many who would have been unable to consider such action in the past.


The tendency has been for patients to treat cosmetic surgery as a commodity rather than a medical choice. If a good deal is offered on a face lift for example, the patient may be distracted from the risks involved such as scarring, bruising or a poor result. Advertisements in glossy magazines and online suggest that it can sometimes come down to a financial decision on whether to buy breast implants or take a holiday.

Cosmetic surgery guidelines and recommendations

With this in mind the General Medical Council (GMC) has proposed a new set of recommendations and guidelines designed to help cosmetic surgeons offer the highest standard of care. Plastic surgeons will be encouraged to allow patients ‘enough time and information’ before going ahead with treatment by providing a mandatory ‘cooling off’ period.  The time period suggested is about two weeks for patients to reflect if the surgery is right for them.

Professor Terence Stephenson, the GMC chairman said ‘doctors must not pressure patients to make rushed decisions they may end up regretting and they must give them enough information so they can make an informed choice.’

As well as the cooling off period, doctors will ask patients how they have been affected by the procedure, both physically and psychologically and check they are happy with the outcome.

The new guidance will also advise that doctors should be open and honest with patients and not trivialise the risks involved.

Recommendations are also made that particular care should be taken when working with anyone under the age of 18. They should not be targeted for marketing purposes and should seek help from those professionals with expertise in treating young people.

The 5C's

BAPRAS (British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons) have recently put in place a checklist for those considering surgery, named the 5C’s

Think about the Change you want to see
Check out potential surgeons
Have a thorough Consultation
Cool off before you commit
Care about your aftercare

As a medico-legal assistant at Lanyon Bowdler, I have spoken to a number of potential clients whose aftercare has apparently been poor. Aftercare is a crucial part of recovery and it should always be checked that full aftercare is available following any procedure.

Qualified surgeons

The GMC is also working with the Royal College of Surgeons to publish information about who has the right skills to carry out cosmetic surgery. Patients will be able to check out doctors qualifications on the GMC medical register and there will be a certification system for surgeons wishing to perform cosmetic surgery. This would also involve a register for those practising non surgical techniques such as botox and fillers.

Cosmetic surgery is often maligned as simple vanity, but sometimes it can help people live more confidently and do things they may otherwise not have done. Also not forgetting that cosmetic surgery is done for those who have been disfigured by birth defects or accidents, the guidelines can only be a welcome step forward in providing the best physical and psychological care for those seeking this type of surgery.  

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