Jean-Claude Mas, the founder of Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) - the firm at the centre of a 2011 global health scare - was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to four years in jail this week. PIP sold faulty breast implants, 42,000 of which were used in procedures on British women. Six distributors and 1,700 women have so far sued TUV Rheinland, the firm in charge of monitoring the safety of implants in France.
Sub-standard silicone, which allowed the implants to rupture, was the cause of the fault. The court heard how the PIP employee in charge of quality control had only one qualification, a diploma in cooking.
As utterly ridiculous as this may sound, it points to a worryingly cavalier attitude toward safety in cosmetic procedures, whether surgical or not.
A recent study found that 13% of people who'd had non-surgical procedures had allowed an unqualified individual to perform the procedure.
11% who took part in the study, conducted by Manchester-based Transform Cosmetic Surgery - the UK's leading supplier of cosmetic surgery and non-surgical procedures - revealed that they had allowed their hairdresser to perform non-surgical procedures, such as applying dermal fillers.
One obvious driver of such reckless behaviour is the lack of distinction between harmless and harmful procedures. Those admitting to allowing friends to perform non-surgical procedures appear to see no difference between using a facemask and injecting dermal filler. Both are regarded as "DIY." Neither are supposed to have permanent results, so both might be seen as safe to perform at home.
But since the consequences of poorly administered non-invasive procedures can take time to materialise, we could be facing a potential health crisis of the same magnitude as the PIP scandal. Mary Catchpole, a 41-year-old bride-to-be was left with temporary blindness, permanent visual impairment, insomnia and depression after having dermal fillers improperly administered. She's just one of many examples where a botched filler job has caused severe health complications.
Earlier this year, the Keogh Review - a study looking at ways to minimise avoidable harm in cosmetic surgery, conducted by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS Medical Director for England - recommended "making all dermal fillers prescription only, ensuring all practitioners are properly qualified for all the procedures they offer, from cosmetic surgeons offering breast enlargement to people offering 'injectables', such as dermal fillers or Botox."
The report also recommended the provision of "an ombudsman to oversee all private health care including cosmetic procedures to help those who have been treated poorly."
But it is attitudes, as well as regulation, that need to be addressed. People who are considering so-called minor procedures, need to understand the relationship between outcome and risk. Women used to using masks and peels at home must understand that the application of dermal fillers and Botox are not in the same risk category. Likewise, a man who uses Alpecin shampoo to thicken up a thinning hairline shouldn't expect his hairdresser to be capable of performing a follicular unit transportation, or "hair transplant."
Transform, who conducted the research, have made inroads in this regard, launching a care charter which counts among its principles, a commitment to "never trivialise a procedure." It's a good start.