15/08/2013 08:17 BST | Updated 14/10/2013 06:12 BST

Booby Prize: Why Giving Cosmetic Surgery Away Is Just Wrong

We all love winning a competition, don't we? There's a certain sense of achievement that comes from overcoming the odds to be crowned 'the best' or luckiest, and being rewarded accordingly.

I like winning as much as the next person. I still hold fond memories of winning a Lego building competition when I was 9 (I deserved it, my colourful skyscraper was massive) and I enjoyed my prize of, rather unsurprisingly, a box of Lego. A sensible reward based on the nature of the competition, right?

Yesterday I read about an American radio station offering a boob job to whoever phoned in and guessed the song mash-up the station had played that morning. A breast augmentation- an invasive, complex procedure that requires numerous consultations and research- was being offered (no questions asked) for singing along to a Katy Perry song.

Only in America, right?


Just last month, BBC viewers saw Dr Leah Totton win The Apprentice; after Sir Alan Sugar decided her Botox chain idea was 'the best' of the bunch. A recently qualified doctor, Totton was rewarded with a £250K investment to open a chain of aesthetic clinics, specialising in muscle relaxing injections. While the 24-year-old has some experience in clinics, she is far from being considered an expert within the field of aesthetics, leaving many to ask if Sugar's choice was a responsible one- not least the UK safety organisations.

In light of Sir Bruce Keogh's report earlier in 2013, which stated that cosmetic treatments should not be offered as competition prizes, the very idea of offering a chain of aesthetic clinics as the prize on an entertainment show makes me feel uneasy- and I'm not alone. The British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons and The British Association of Dermatologists all issued statements immediately slamming her ability to not only set up such a chain of outlets, but also run them too, as a very recently qualified doctor.

Non-surgical procedures like Botox and dermal fillers carry risks just like invasive procedures like tummy tucks and facelifts. Everyone wanting to undertake any form of aesthetic treatment must be aware of those risks, and have the right to know they are being treated by an experienced, fully-trained professional. Offering up cosmetic procedures as bait, incentive or a prize for a competition is just wrong. Patient safety should be of paramount concern of any practitioner, and research needs to be an essential part of the process for anyone considering treatment.

Winning cosmetic surgery procedures and treatments as part of a competition may sound like an ideal prize to many people, but we must remember how serious every procedure is, and that what works for one person may not work for another. What if the person who wins a nose job, for example, is vulnerable? What if they don't really need the nose reshaping surgery but have it anyway- simply because it was free and they felt pressured into redeeming their prize?

In my mind it's simple; cosmetic surgery isn't to be taken lightly, and giving it away as a prize or reward is frankly just irresponsible. I can't even begin to express my horror after reading about an American ophthalmologist who was in the news this week for offering cosmetic procedures to anyone who can set him up with his 'dream woman'. Matchmakers stand to get Botox or Juvederm injections and LASIK surgery if they can find him a partner that matches is strict criteria- size 0, highly-educated and '8/10 or above' pretty. The mind boggles.

My advice? Cosmetic or aesthetic treatments must be researched, planned and executed carefully, by a fully trained and experienced practitioner. The patient should be positive it's the right decision for them, and that they are only undergoing a procedure to please themselves. A responsible plastic surgeon, cosmetic doctor or nurse, or dermatologist will never give away treatments- it's irresponsible and dangerous. Be informed and be safe.

You can find more safety advice via The Cosmetic Surgery Guide website