Category Archives: medicine

Past mistakes

Controversy of the week: what to do about the legacy of cosmetic surgery in which a key component is (retrospectively) deemed defective?  Should the offending breast implants be removed, replaced, or left alone?  Who should pay?  Different countries have reacted differently, and every reaction is sure to have outraged someone.

I find it slightly bizarre that this should be seen as a matter for governments.  Surely it should be for medical professionals to deal with: is there a medical issue, and if so what are the pros and cons of each option?  The role of politicians might be to consider how it happened in the first place and whether there are lessons to be learned for the regulatory system.  But I hesitate to say that, because the most likely outcome of politicians reviewing a hot topic like this is to make things worse.

I have one suggestion for them.  The question of who pays if corrective surgery is required can and should be dealt with by requiring all cosmetic surgery to carry insurance against the full cost of such an event arising in the lifetime of the patient.  An insurer, having its own money at stake, is better-motivated than a regulator to scrutinise the actual risks of any particular procedure.  It is also better-equipped to do so, with the budget for expert scrutiny being determined by the actual risk being taken on, rather than competing with many unrelated tasks for a fixed, politically-determined pot.

Oh, and I wonder if this’ll lead to a whole raft of similar cases being unearthed as journalists seek out new stories?

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