An investigation suggests that some Australian cosmetic surgeons “seem to be operating with impunity.”
Released on October 25, 2021, the 50-minute exposé by Four Corners, The Age, and Sydney Morning Herald centers on Australian dermatologist-turned-cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Daniel Lanzer.
“Cosmetic Cowboys” revealed a number of alleged ethics and safety violations at some of Australia’s most popular cosmetic surgery clinics, by one of its most famous cosmetic surgeons.
The clinics—in Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, and Brisbane—are owned by Dr. Daniel Lanzer, who has five-million TikTok followers and 310,000 Instagram followers.
Tip of the iceberg
As to the egregious ethics and safety violations alleged, Dr. Lanzer “is the tip of the iceberg,” says Professor Mark Ashton, former president of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons.
Mr. Ashton provided expert commentary on some of Dr. Lanzer’s social media videos for Four Corners.
In a statement he issued after the program aired, Mr. Lanzer says the program’s coverage was unfair and that among those featured were disgruntled ex-staffers who set him up while employed and demanded money before appearing.
In Mr. Lanzer’s statement, printed in full below, he also says that a “turf war… prompted the surgeons to criticize me.”
A terrible turf war
Dr. Lanzer shared that subsequent to the airing of the investigation, he has received multiple offers from Australia’s most popular media outlets inviting him to come on and reply to the claims made against him.
“I feel obligated to give you an honest explanation to the misinformation and why I am a victim of a terrible turf war between plastic surgeons and other surgeons in Australia,” his statement reads in part.
Dr. Lanzer has been in practice for 30 years and has performed more than 30,000 cosmetic procedures.
In Four Corners’ “Cosmetic Cowboys: Shocking Practices Exposed in Australia’s Cosmetic Surgery Industry,” viewers hear from five of Dr. Lanzer’s former patients.
Four Corners says after its investigation aired, dozens more patients came forward to share their experience.
Regulatory system failing patients
The investigation also reveals how the Australian regulatory system fails to adequately protect patients from cosmetic surgery gone wrong.
Video shared by Dr. Lanzer was shown to industry experts who pointed out—among non-sterile storage of surgical instruments and bodily fluids and fat—that while Lanzer is performing liposuction and recording it for viewers, he isn’t looking at where the tip of his liposuction cannula is going.
That can increase the risk of puncturing organs, experts said.
“He caused me [‘years and years’ of] extreme pain. [I was] housebound. I had to have further major surgery twice, because of his procedure,” says one patient in the video.
Another patient who wished to remain unnamed, said, “I felt like as soon as I walked into the operating theatre, that I was in a cheap, dirty operating room.”
She says she underwent a tummy tuck by Dr. Lanzer, the incision from which was closed with staples.
“When I walked over to the bed, there was dirty blood stains from another patient on that bed. Blood on the curtains. Blood on the table. Just disgusting.”
Images shared by Four Corners included a number of facelift incisions also closed with staples.
“I’ve been doing facelifts for thirty years and I’ve never seen that before,” specialist plastic surgeon Dr. Patrick Brings said of Dr. Lanzer’s use of surgical staples in place of sutures.
“We never use staples on the face, in front of the ear,” adds Dr. Ashton. “It’s such a delicate—such a cosmetically sensitive important part of the face.”
- Dr. Lanzer patient paid $1,000 to remove a 1-star Google review.
- Dr. Lanzer patient feared death, suffered from dying, putrid flesh.
- Dr. Lanzer clinic nurses take fat home in shopping bags before facility audit.
Dr. Lanzer replies
Dr. Lanzer replied to Four Corners’ questions via recorded video, which footage appears multiple times throughout the Cosmetic Cowboys exposé.
As for using staples in place of sutures, Lanzer says he uses a combination of staples and sutures because it produces the best results, and that a study suggests its safety and efficacy.
On October 26, a day after the investigation aired, Dr. Lanzer posted this statement to Instagram:
I have received multiple offers from the most popular media outlets in Australia, covering radio, TV and newspapers, to reply to the spurious claims by the ABC, The Age and Sydney Morning Herald on Monday night.
“I feel obligated to give you an honest explanation to the misinformation and why I am a victim of a terrible turf war between plastic surgeons and other surgeons in Australia.
“Many issues were raised on the Four Corners’ program in an unfair manner, with disgruntled ex-staffers, who set me up while they were employed by me and made demands for money before they appeared.
“The normal Dr Lanzer would love the opportunity to defend my position in the media as I know the truth and there is nothing to hide.
“However I have made a decision I am not going to respond to any of the ex-staffers’ claims nor am I going to come forward with information relevant to the turf war which prompted the surgeons to criticize me.
“Instead I have commissioned an independent assessment of the allegations and the practices in my clinics to ensure they maintain highest standards of care that have been a hallmark of my 30 year career.” @drlanzer
Under Australian law, dermatologists or anyone “with a basic medical degree” can call themselves cosmetic surgeons, says a Four Corners reporter.
The same is true within the United States, where a 2021 WSB-TV investigation centered on a pediatrician who now performs cosmetic surgery. WSB-TV says “many” of that doctor’s patients have also come forward about injuries.
Dr. Lanzer no longer practicing
On October 29, Four Corners reported that just days after their investigation, Mr. Lanzer agreed to stop practicing medicine, and removed the content from his TikTok account.
Within the week he had also described Four Corners’ investigation as “ridiculous accusations,” “unfair” and “misinformation.”