REGULATION OF IRISH COSMETIC SURGERY INDUSTRY IS URGENTLY REQUIRED

The details which have emerged from the recent Medical Council fitness-to-practice committee hearing concerning Dr Marco Loiacono highlight the extreme (and completely avoidable) risks which people who undergo cosmetic surgery procedures in this country are exposed to.
Despite the fact that there have been numerous high-profile cases of serious injury to patients due to the gross incompetence of certain practitioners in the area, cosmetic surgery continues to be an entirely unregulated industry.
This is regrettable when one considers that as far back as July of 2008, in a report prepared by the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance entitled ‘Building a Culture of Patient Safety’, the need for safeguards was recognised, with it being recommended that there should be a mandatory healthcare licensing system established in Ireland. This proposed licensing system was to apply to specific areas of practice, including cosmetic surgery, with each such licensed facility to be the subject of review every three years. On the subject of three-year periods, it is pitiful to note that as we approach the third anniversary of the publication of this report there has been absolutely no legislation enacted to put this proposed licensing system in place.
It has been estimated that the Irish cosmetic surgery industry is worth €30m per annum. With those kinds of figures at play it is hardly surprising that cowboys and incompetents would flock to the area like moths to a flame in the absence of any appropriate regulatory bars to entry being imposed.
One wonders whether, if Loiacono had been subjected to the rigours of an appropriate licensing system, he would have been authorised to carry out the procedure to Kate Murray which gave rise to the fitness-to-practice hearing.
Ms Murray (25) had breast-augmentation surgery carried out by Loiacono at the Cosmedico Clinic in Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow on 15 March 2008.
Two weeks after the procedure she was admitted to hospital suffering from life-threatening septic shock and advanced cellulitis as a result of post-operative infection. Within days of the surgery, Ms Murray began to suffer severe pain and oozing of fluid from her wounds. However, notwithstanding the fact that she had made several visits to the clinic in the meantime, the implants were not removed until 31 March.
Loiacano was struck off the medical register after being found guilty of 14 counts of professional misconduct in Ms Murray’s treatment and care. This was the second such finding against Loiacano this year, with a similar determination having been handed down in relation to his treatment of a woman who underwent a breast-implant procedure in 2006.
The committee heard from reconstructive surgeon Peter Meagher that Ms Murray had been “horribly physically scarred for life and mentally scarred”. He went on to confirm that if Ms Murray had not presented herself at St Vincent’s there was a very real possibility that she could have ended up in intensive care on a ventilator and that “anything after that would have been possible”.
While Ms Murray will no doubt be pleased with the fact that Loiacano has been struck off the register this, of itself, is little recompense for the terrible injuries which she sustained at his hands. Hopefully Ms Murray has also secured appropriate monetary compensation for the pain, disfigurement and psychological distress which she has endured.
However, her case not only highlights the physical risks associated with undergoing cosmetic surgery procedures in Ireland but it also shows how one could potentially find themselves having no fund to compensate them in the event that they became the victim of medical negligence.
The Medical Council could not track down Loiacano, who has since left Ireland and is believed to be performing plastic surgery procedures in Rome. The clinic at which Ms Murray had the procedure carried out is now defunct. This illustrates how someone who has been the subject of clinical malpractice could find themselves without an appropriate party to sue for damages by the time they have recovered sufficiently to commence the appropriate legal action.
Not that we needed one, Ms Murray’s experience is a clear example of why we urgently require regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry in Ireland in order to prevent horrific cases of this nature recurring.

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John specialises in personal injury and medical negligence claims. His practice focuses on high value compensation cases. He has extensive experience in this area of litigation for over 10 years. Read more