MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

I did not know what a ‘body modification provider’ is. My first guess was that it is a car mechanic who specializes in making my vehicle look ok again after I had a minor accident. But I was wrong! In fact, it is a new healthcare profession – one that we are well-advised to avoid, as it turns out. A Media Release from the Health Care Complaints Commission of Australia dated 27 May, 2022 informed us that:

The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (Commission) investigated the conduct of Mr Brendan Russell, a body modification provider.

In his capacity as a body modification provider, conducting invasive surgical procedures and administering sedation, Mr Russell is a non-registered health practitioner and subject to the Code of Conduct for non-registered health practitioners (Code of Conduct) set out in schedule 3 of the Public Health Regulation 2012.

Mr Russell was charged with criminal offences relating to services provided to three clients. One related to the removal of part of a client’s labia. Another related to the death of a client following a subdermal implant of a silicone object into the client’s right hand. Mr Russell also performed abdominal surgery on another client making incisions into her abdominal tissue to remove fat.

Following convictions in November 2021 for Intentionally Causing Grievous Bodily Harm, Aid/Abet/Counsel or Procure Female Genital Mutilation and Manslaughter, Mr Russell has breached numerous clauses of the Code of Conduct, and it has been determined that he poses a risk to the health and safety of members of the public.

An Interim Prohibition order has been in place to protect the public during the criminal proceedings.  The Commission has now imposed a Permanent Prohibition Order under section 41A(2)(a) of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 (Act):

Mr Brendan Russell, a body modification provider, is permanently prohibited from providing any health services, either in paid employment or voluntarily, to any member of the public.

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What is all this about? Has this man gone doolally? In particular, what is the removal of a woman’s labia supposed to be for? Here is what Wikipedia says about it:

Labiaplasty (also known as labioplastylabia minora reduction, and labial reduction) is a plastic surgery procedure for altering the labia minora (inner labia) and the labia majora (outer labia), the folds of skin surrounding the human vulva. There are two main categories of women seeking cosmetic genital surgery: those with congenital conditions such as intersex, and those with no underlying condition who experience physical discomfort or wish to alter the appearance of their genitals because they believe they do not fall within a normal range.[1]

The size, colour, and shape of labia vary significantly, and may change as a result of childbirth, aging, and other events.[1] Conditions addressed by labiaplasty include congenital defects and abnormalities such as vaginal atresia (absent vaginal passage), Müllerian agenesis (malformed uterus and fallopian tubes), intersex conditions (male and female sexual characteristics in a person); and tearing and stretching of the labia minora caused by childbirth, accident, and age. In a male-to-female sexual reassignment vaginoplasty for the creation of a neovagina, labiaplasty creates labia where once there were none.

A 2008 study reported that 32 percent of women who underwent the procedure did so to correct a functional impairment; 31 percent to correct a functional impairment and for aesthetic reasons; and 37 percent for aesthetic reasons alone.[2] According to a 2011 review, overall patient satisfaction is in the 90–95 percent range.[3] Risks include permanent scarring, infections, bleeding, irritation, and nerve damage leading to increased or decreased sensitivity. A change in requirements of publicly funded Australian plastic surgery requiring women to be told about natural variation in labias led to a 28% reduction in the number of surgeries performed.[4] Unlike public hospitals, cosmetic surgeons in private practice are not required to follow these rules, and critics say that “unscrupulous” providers are charging to perform the procedure on women who would not want it if they had more information.[4]

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So, now we know. The procedure belongs in the hands of plastic surgeons, not some ‘body modification provider’. S0-called alternative medicine (SCAM) really is a scam where anything goes. Homeopaths claim to cure cancer, chiropractors believe they can treat anything from deafness and heart disease, acupuncturists feel they can reduce body weight, and now ‘body modification providers’ think they are plastic surgeons. What is more, the amazing thing is: there are always some people gullible enough to believe them.

Brave new world!

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