CAP: Regulate Cosmetic Surgery

Time and again we hear of cases of botched cosmetic surgery in the country and this time a young woman lost her life following a liposuction procedure at a beauty salon. As the procedure took place at non-medical premises, as such it is not under the jurisdiction of the Health Ministry.

When such tragedy happens there will be a debate in the media on the issue.  According to the  Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Subramaniam Muniandy, such incidents had occurred before, and that the matter of strict enforcement had been brought up to the government several times.

Presently there are guidelines on aesthetic medical practice put in place by the Health Ministry and in governance since 2013. The Health Ministry has powers only to act under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act (PHFSA) 1998 and also the Medical Act 1971 if doctors untrained in cosmetic surgery are found to be involved. These antiquated laws are deemed to be insufficient to protect consumers from being duped by these unqualified so-called “cosmetic surgeons”.

Since 2013, CAP has been calling on the Ministry of Health to strictly regulate cosmetic surgery, as there are no direct laws to prevent an unqualified person from performing cosmetic surgery or non-surgical procedures or  to make them face criminal charges even if the patient dies or is disfigured as a result of a botched job.

As it has become an obsession in today’s society to look beautiful, and many will not think twice about spending thousands of dollars or going under the knife for enhancements. The amount of money spent on such operations all over the world may well exceed the budgets of some developing countries, in which people die of hunger and are unable to sustain life.

Given the above situation, more and more people, especially young women, are falling prey to unscrupulous beauty centres which feed on their insecurities and desires. The beauty and wellness industry is very lucrative. According to the Malaysian Medical Council, the billion-dollar industry is growing by 15% annually.

The potential for huge profits, however, has spurred the growth of back-street practitioners with little experience or expertise in handling the surgeon’s scalpel or even other non-surgical cosmetic equipments.  This has lured not only “quack doctors” but also general practitioners who are untrained in the field to want to make a quick buck.

As slimming and cosmetic surgery adverts relentlessly flood the newspapers and electronic media, the need for cosmetic procedures have almost   become  a  necessity for many modern women. Even though the prospective modern-day cosmetic surgery patient is now theoretically more informed, and hence more empowered to make knowledgeable decisions, we still hear of human tragedies. Besides, nerve damage and disfigurement from injected substances were other instances of harm from cosmetic procedures.

 Unlike a responsible doctor who will conduct  thorough examination on the patient before deciding on the best treatment option, beauty centres often bend backwards to follow the customers’ wishes, regardless of the medical risks.

Following are some of the botched cosmetic jobs:

·       November 2009

A   34 year-old woman suffered a swollen nose after injections were made to enlarge it.

·       January 2010

44 year-old wife of a politician died after being in a 10 month coma following complications that resulted from an eight hour surgery for eye-bag reduction, tummy tuck and liposuction.

·       February 2010

A 28 year-old salesgirl ended up with a disfigured face after a collagen injection to look younger.

·       May 2010

A  37 year-old woman who went for a breast reduction surgery suffered nerve damage and had to have her nipples removed.

·       June 2010

After liposuction at a beauty salon, a women died when she went back for a follow-up procedure. She is believed to have had an allergic reaction to the anaesthetic.

·       May 2011

A 35 year-old woman from Petaling Jaya paid RM8,180 for four injections to her buttocks with what the beauty centre claimed to be sheep placenta. When the injected areas started swelling she went to a specialist hospital and found that the centre had actually used silicone.

·       June 2011

A 30 year-old clerk got an infection from a procedure in which fat from her abdominal was used to pad her breast.

·       June 11 2011

A 18 year-old trainee beautician  was left  with part of her earlobe missing after a surgery to remove a scar on the ear lobe.

·       June 13 2013

A 46 year-old woman was pronounced dead after undergoing a breast enlargement procedure at a beauty centre in Petaling Jaya.

These reports share common features – disfigurement, deformity and death – as a result of procedures directed at altering external appearances.

CAP had received complaints on botched cosmetic surgery way back in eighties. Not much has changed since then as there has not been any legislation enacted to protect consumers.

In view of the latest tragedies the Consumers Association of Penang reiterates its calls on the Ministry of Health to:

·       take stringent action against doctors who perform such procedures despite not being trained in the field.

·       make the  guidelines on aesthetic medicine into law so that it can be  legally enforced.

·       regulate the promotion of cosmetic treatments

·       impose  jail sentences  against violators. These  punitive measures should be incorporated in a Bill governing beauty salon and other illegal operators.


Letter to the Editor, 6 November 2020