Cosmetic Surgery, Choice and Regulation

11 Pages Posted: 16 May 2012

See all articles by Wendy Larcombe

Wendy Larcombe

University of Melbourne - Law School

Date Written: May 15, 2012


The calls for stronger regulation of cosmetic surgery (or cosmetic medical practice) in Australia are loud and clear. The increasing popularity of cosmetic medical procedures over the past decade, the proliferation of providers and techniques, and the high number of claims against professional indemnity insurers in relation to cosmetic procedures indicate the need for an extensive review of existing regulatory mechanisms. In this context, it is timely to consider how regulation of this area of health practice might best be approached. This paper focuses on issues of patient choice and autonomy. It asks: what kind of choice is the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery and how might this impact on both patients’ expectations and doctors’ responsibilities? As most cosmetic surgery patients are women, undergoing procedures such as liposuction and breast augmentation, feminists have often questioned the autonomy of the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery: the freedom of women’s choice(s). Feminist theories of ‘relational autonomy’ have been advanced in this context; this paper argues that they are also relevant to a consideration of how cosmetic surgery might best be regulated precisely because they can focus attention on the relation between practitioner and patient.

Keywords: cosmetic surgery, choice, relational autonomy, medical regulation

JEL Classification: K00, K19, K39

Suggested Citation

Larcombe, Wendy, Cosmetic Surgery, Choice and Regulation (May 15, 2012). U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 590, Available at SSRN: or

Wendy Larcombe (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010

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