BOMSS statement on advertising

BOMSS statement on current advertising practice for bariatric procedures

BOMSS statement on current advertising practice for bariatric procedures

Standards of medical advertising are guided by the code of conduct laid down by the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) which, in turn, is overseen by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Some associations such as BAPRAS (British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons) and IHAS (Independent Healthcare Advisory Services) have laid down additional guidelines for the advertising of cosmetic surgical procedures, but there are currently no published guidelines addressing the standards of advertising for bariatric, or weight loss, surgery.

A review of current Internet advertising practice in the UK for bariatric surgery has demonstrated marked variation in methods and standards of advertising and a wide disparity among standards of promotion of bariatric surgery. The review noted that some advertisers emphasise the cosmetic aspects following surgery and that some funding incentives detract from real expectations and outcomes of bariatric surgery.

In 2007, The American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgeons (ASMBS) published a short series of advertising guidelines that provide a broad framework for establishing a basic level of conduct. These guidelines promote an approach based on professional integrity and on the appropriate conveyance of information. They recommend advertisements provide accurate and factual information that should not be misleading. They advise against the “use of superlatives or adjectives such as ‘premier’, ‘best’, and other laudatory statements” and that “claims of superiority over others and comparisons, whether direct or implied, between two or more bariatric surgeons, practices or hospitals are discouraged.”

BOMSS regards compliance with these same guidelines as well as compliance with GMC standards on professional advertising as binding on its members.

Marketing materials should be drafted and designed to safeguard patients from unrealistic expectations and unjustifiable claims. Advertisements should depict real life and discounts or financial incentives must not be offered. As stated in “Good Medical Practice” any information that appears in print about the services a doctor provides must be verifiable, truthful and must not make claims that one practitioner is better than another. Claims should not be made about the quality or outcomes of services in any information provided to patients. Advertising must not offer guarantee of cure nor exploit a patient’s vulnerability or lack of medical knowledge. Equally, a patient’s vulnerability must not be exploited when making charges for treatment or services.

Before and after photos are commonly included in adverts and can be beneficial to patients in providing realistic information and encouragement: however, they must not be misleading. Success stories from particular patients may be useful in informing patients, but should be associated with clear information about the potential risks associated with surgery. Social networking websites could be a positive factor as they can effectively constitute a patient group.