Monday, January 23, 2012

A culture of denial

Breast implants are back in the news today, with a call for the banning of cosmetic surgery advertisements. This was picked up by the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Noting that the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) was "calling for an outright ban on the advertising of all cosmetic surgery", it had Fazel Fatah, president of BAAPS, and Sally Taber, director of the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services (IHAS), which represents the cosmetic surgery industry, to "discuss the necessity of such a ban".

Needless to say, the "elephant" was not at all represented – even though the BBC is fully aware that such issues are the competence of the European Union, having in fact told us of EU involvement, the day before Booker went to press on the issue (below).

As regards the banning of cosmetic surgery advertisements, this cannot be done under EU law. There was a case on precisely this before the ECJ in January 2008, with a final ruling in July 2008 when it was ruled that prohibition of advertisements constituted "a restriction on freedom of establishment and freedom to provide services".

Nonetheless, the BBC reports on prof Sir Bruce Keogh, "who is leading a government review of the trade after the PIP breast implants scandal". The Great Man has said an insurance scheme for the sector, similar to that in the travel industry, could be introduced. The government is also considering the introduction of a breast implant registry to make a record of all cosmetic operations.

Ironically, it is these recommendation that are cosmetic, as these issues are also an EU competence. They are not within the power of the British government to implement. Furthermore, they have been under discussion by the EU since 2001.

It was then that the commission announced it was "to propose tighter controls on the safety of breast implants, and reinforced mechanisms to check that these rules are observed", telling us that it would also "ask for an upgrade of the European standards for breast implants".

Ironically, in July 2002, the commission decided that, for medical devices, the regulatory framework was sound, but could be better implemented. Enterprise commissioner Erkki Liikanen then said: "Providing access to the best medical technology and devices, that meet the highest standards of safety and improve the quality of life, is a key objective of the Commission policy towards European citizens".

Having failed to ensure that the devices meet the highest standards of safety, the commission is at last admitting that reform is needed – which only it can decide upon. But that does not stop the British government, with the help of the BBC and the media in general, going through its elaborate charade, pretending it is doing something in the hope of convincing people that it is still in charge.

So the culture of denial continues where, strangely, those who are the most avid supporters of the EU seem to be those who are also keenest to deny its involvement in so many aspects of our lives.