July 2011


Cosmetic surgery on children

Professional and legal obligations in Australia

Volume 40, No.7, July 2011 Pages 513-516

Leon Kitipornchai

Shih-Ning Then


Public awareness and concern about cosmetic surgery on children is increasing. Nationally and internationally questions have been raised by the media and government bodies about the appropriateness of children undergoing cosmetic surgery. Considering the rates of cosmetic surgery in comparable Western societies, it seems likely that the number of physicians in Australia who will deal with a request for cosmetic surgery for a child will continue to increase. This is a sensitive issue and it is essential that physicians understand the professional and legal obligations that arise when cosmetic surgery is proposed for a child.


This article reviews the current professional and legal obligations that physicians have to competent and incompetent children for whom cosmetic surgery has been requested.


A case study is used to highlight the factors that Australian primary care physicians must consider before referring and conducting cosmetic surgery on children.

Concerns have arisen both internationally and nationally about the ethics and practice of children undergoing cosmetic surgery.1 While Australia lacks reliable data on the prevalence of cosmetic surgery on children,1 there is evidence to suggest that an alarming proportion (31%) of young Australians report dissatisfaction with their bodies.2 It is also known that body image dissatisfaction frequently motivates the decision to have cosmetic surgery.3

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