The Cosmetic Surgery Industry Is Expanding Due to Lack of Control: “Patients are Money”

When Matilde Padín decided to have surgery to lift her breasts, she was greeted by a salesperson, not a surgeon. “We met, he drew me a picture of what it would look like and asked me for the payroll to finance the operation. The first thing is to sell you the product. Patients are money. What came next, oh, if I had known…,” says this 48-year-old from Murcia who has been waiting for months for the trial against the clinic that operated on her in 2017. Eight years later, one of her breasts was supported thanks to a titanium mesh desperately placed in public health after seven private operations with “disastrous results”, including the lawsuit accessed by

It is a fact that cosmetic surgery is a business that is expanding at a dizzying pace in Spain. In 2021, 204,510 operations were registered, 215% more than in 2013, according to the most recent data from the Spanish Society of Aesthetic, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (Secpre). In recent years, however, an increasingly firm consensus has emerged among medical associations, scientific societies and health authorities about the lack of control in which the sector is mired and which has supported its growth. Mixed in the cocktail that explains how we got here is the desire for profit, health regulations with loopholes that encourage infringement and a society obsessed with physical appearance.

“The sector has become a jungle. Anyone who wants to open clinics, they bring in everyone and they advertise aggressively and falsely with prices that do not cover the costs.” It is the professional panorama that Isabel de Benito, president of Secpre, sketches on the other end of the phone. The medical society has been calling for a change in legislation for years because “what the law allows is one thing and training to address a specific pathology is another.” According to a Royal Decree of 2003In Spain, all specialist surgeons can perform plastic surgery, but also any 'other surgical specialist in the field of their specialty'.

“My sister underwent surgery by a cardiovascular surgeon who had never done liposculpture (removing fat from the abdomen to transfer it to the buttocks),” recalls Rubén, brother of Sara Gómez, a woman who died as a result of the damage caused by the procedure. after a month in the ICU. His case pushed for a non-legislative proposal (NLP) passed by Congress in 2022 that urged the government to “ensure that all health activities are carried out by medical professionals who have an officially recognized qualification.” Many of the specialties are medical-surgical: ophthalmology, ENT, urology, gynecology or traumatology, contextualized by Secpre.

'Stop' the sector

A few weeks ago, the Minister of Health, Mónica García, announced that she wanted to “put an end” to the sector, so that “not just any doctor can work as a beautician. “In the end, it is the patients who pay for it,” says García. The ministry has committed to modifying the 2003 Royal Decree in accordance with the NLP to “delimit who can perform these operations” and “put an end to the intrusion into this area.”

In addition, a “register of aesthetic surgery centers and professionals” will be created so that patients “can check the qualifications of the people who will treat them,” a spokesperson for Public Health responded to this medium. The commitment is that the first draft will be ready by mid-summer and that the changes will be approved by the end of 2024.

“For us it would be a huge achievement. It would bring order, bring sanity and, above all, save lives,” says Rubén Gómez. Ten years ago, the Spanish Society of Plastic Surgery estimated that 9,000 doctors performed aesthetic procedures without being specialists, that is, without having completed the five-year MIR training.

Seven out of ten aesthetic centers in Spain recognize that “it was necessary to reduce costs to compete”, according to the latest report from the Secpre.

Seven out of ten aesthetic centers in Spain recognize that “it was necessary to reduce costs to compete,” according to the latest report from the Secpre. 82% have the perception that “breach has increased.” Many post the rise of surgery cheap with the phenomenon of Corporación Dermoestética, a very well-known Spanish company that went bankrupt in 2016 with a flood of claims and redundancies. “It is not a procedure that can be carried out at a low cost. It is a bad idea to cut back on patient safety when everyone wants their share of the pie,” criticizes Isabel de Benito.

Ten interventions in three years

“The first time they operated on me, they left two udders with drooping nipples,” says Matilde, who asked to be operated on again a few months after the first operation at a clinic in the Dorsia chain. It was December 2017. From then on the problems started. According to the lawsuit, five months after the second intervention, Matilde's right breast had a contracture that did not resolve with any treatment and the clinic decided she would undergo further surgery.

The wound resulting from the operation did not close completely. “After the third intervention, the healing problems started and five more interventions were needed by the doctor to repair the damage,” says the medical expert opinion of the prosecutor and which this media has been able to consult. Among the complications are: “exposure and displacement of the implant, infection and dehiscence (or opening) of the wound.”

“The stitches under my chest opened and opened again until they burst and a brown fluid came out,” said Padín, who attended a disability assessment a few weeks ago. He has limited mobility in his right arm – “difficulty in weight bearing and strengthening of the right upper limb,” the expert writes – and a much harder chest than the other. “When I make an effort, everything inflates like a football. I can't sleep on my side or gain weight,” he describes. He paid nearly $3,000 for the first operation, although the money was eventually returned to him by the clinic, the lawsuit alleges.

Padín is asking the company, which has 160 clinics across Spain, for damages of 45,000 euros. As stated in the lawsuit, he eventually went into public health. This phase coincided with the 2020 confinement period. The civil trial has been postponed several times. The final hearing was scheduled for May 31 and has been rescheduled for November. attempted to obtain Dorsia's version without receiving a response.

Breast operations for aesthetic reasons – especially breast enlargements – remain the most common procedures performed in Spain: they accounted for more than half of the total in 2021

Breast operations for aesthetic reasons – especially breast enlargements – remain the most common procedures performed in Spain: they accounted for more than half of the total in 2021, according to the report The reality of cosmetic surgery in Spain (Secret). They are followed by eyelid surgery and eyelid surgery (10.7%); and liposuction (10.5%). The Patient Advocate Association received 286 complaints in 2023 for “unsatisfactory results” from cosmetic surgical interventions out of a total of 12,071 cases.

The College of Physicians of Madrid Sent a statement at the end of April that goes further: it asked members to “take into account that non-medical personnel perform actions typical of the profession and report this” to the organization. “As the Supreme Court itself has confirmed, the field of aesthetic medicine corresponds to the medical profession and never to other professionals, whether they are health professionals or not, with the sole exception of dentists for treatments in the mouth and jaw area,” said the message sent to professionals.

Prisoners and a closed clinic

Stephanie Vásquez underwent breast surgery in 2022. Everything went well, until a few days after the intervention he felt a “choking sensation” and noticed that “liquid was seeping from the cuts”, according to what he stated in his statement in court in Córdoba a few weeks ago. . In the clinic they played it down “despite the fact that the breast had a strange color and started to ooze,” Vásquez said in conversation with this medium.

“They recommended some honeycomb honey patches to me. I was stunned, I thought they were going to prescribe me an antibiotic. It kept getting worse until I decided to go to the emergency room at the health center. They sent me to the hospital because my chest was inflamed and I panicked,” he says. After this episode he went to the clinic for treatment; In one of them, “they cut off half her nipple,” the complainant told the judge. Six months after her operation, in March 2023, two doctors and the director of the clinic Nikki Reina, where she was operated on, were arrested. The three people accused of wounding were later released. as published by Cadena Ser. A few weeks later the central closure

Stephanie chose that clinic because 'it had an impeccable reputation on the internet' and she had previously operated on a friend of hers. Six months later, two doctors and the director were arrested

Stephanie chose that clinic – whose contact number is no longer available, as these media verified when she tried to contact them – because “it had an impeccable reputation on the Internet” and had previously operated on a friend of hers. The intervention cost him 7,000 euros. “I was in a state of fear, I felt very vulnerable because of where I had ended up. “I never thought I would be in danger and today I think I am lucky not to have died,” says the affected woman, who assures that two years after her intervention she has physical consequences – her breast is “deformed” – and psychological consequences. consequences. The legal proceedings are still in their initial stages.

There is no data on the specific billing of cosmetic surgery clinics, but there is data on centers authorized to practice aesthetic medicine, which also includes less invasive treatments such as Botox. According to the Spanish Society of Aesthetic Medicine, the turnover of 6,305 clinics in 2021 exceeded 3.5 billion euros. “In the coming years, growth will come mainly from facial treatments, which represent 69% of turnover, and turnover is expected to grow by around 26%,” the document states. The increase is explained by the following data, provided by the same medical association: 46.6% of people in Spain underwent aesthetic treatment in 2023 (69% of women, 31% of men).

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