Warning over hard-sell tactics in cosmetic surgery

Aggressive marketing tactics is putting pressure on doctors to hard-sell nips and tucks in a bid to meet targets, plastic surgeons say.

Dr Sanjay Parashar of the Cocoona clinic in Dubai, says sales targets lead to compromises on ethics and quality. Victor Besa for The National
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Cut-price incentives and budget procedures put pressure on doctors to compromise on ethics and standards of care, which could cause patients health problems later in life.

DUBAI // Doctors are warning those interested in cosmetic surgery about aggressive marketing and sales tactics used at some practices to promote plastic surgery.

Dr Sanjay Parashar, chief executive and director of the Cocoona Centre for Aesthetic Transformation, said high-pressure sales environments were putting a strain on doctors and managers to hard-sell nips and tucks in a drive to meet targets, while some plastic surgeons were promoting the kinds of offers or two-for-one deals one might expect to find in a supermarket or shopping mall.

When non-plastic surgeons own plastic-surgery businesses, corporate investors have expectations on the return for their -investments, Dr Parashar said.

“This puts a lot of pressure on the doctors and managers to achieve targets in a stipulated period of time. And targets lead to compromise on the ethics, quality and medical fundamentals,” he said.

“Hard-sell tactics are adopted by non-professionals and they often are willing to perform the surgery within a day or two.”

Budget plastic surgery is another cause for concern for Dr Parashar, who said such tactics muddied the line between running a successful business and practising medicine ethically.

“For example, some centres offer Dh5,000 for liposuction or Dh7,000 for rhinoplasty,” he said. “How is it possible to perform this procedure by a certain standard of medical care?”

Dr Parashar said that cut-price incentives could entice people who had not previously considered surgical or non-surgical procedures, to have more work done, potentially heightening the risk of post-operative complications. These could include infection, bleeding, wound breakdown, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

Dr Luiz Toledo, a cosmetic surgeon in Dubai, warned patients against being taken in by deals that seemed to good to be true.

“Do not treat your body with someone that offers cheap alternatives to good treatment, such as Groupon offers – you can’t buy something for nothing,” he said. “Surgery is expensive and if the doctor uses the best hospital, crew and materials, the price is not cheap.

“I have heard of clinics offering Botox treatment for prices cheaper than the price of the Botox vial. Either they are diluting the product many times or they are using cheaper, non-approved drugs instead.”

Dr Toledo said a good plastic surgeon would never try to push a procedure on a patient.

“If the surgeon starts with, ‘by the way, why don’t you do your nose?’ when a patient comes in for breast surgery, you know something is wrong.

“There is one situation when the plastic surgeon can offer an extra treatment, such as when a patient comes for a nose job and the surgeon verifies that the patient has a weak chin, which makes the nose look bigger than it actually is.

“Then he can offer an alternative or concomitant chin augmentation.”

Dr Maurizio Viel and Dr Roberto Viel, of the London Centre for Aesthetic Surgery in Dubai, said it was important that patients did not “bargain hunt” for the cheapest surgeries – such as an offer of a Botox procedure for Dh500, because it would often end with problems farther down the line.

They said patients should try to have at least two consultations with established, reputable surgeons who are based in the UAE, rather than with visiting surgeons, because this helped with post-operative care. Patients should also feel comfortable with the surgeon.

“It is important to not seek surgeons who pressure their patients and are hard-sellers – if the patient is uncomfortable with the doctor, they should not go ahead,” said Dr Maurizio Viel.

Dr Roberto Viel said patients should not feel rushed into undergoing a procedure, and surgeons should always give -patients time to consider the surgery if they were unsure.

“We don’t think it is just Dubai where patients face unethical surgeons but all over the world – from London to New York,” he said.

“It is important for patients to be savvy and to be armed with questions if they don’t understand the implications.”