Towards the end of 2020, Transform Hospital Group; a large cosmetic surgery chain with headquarters in London, admitted that hackers had somehow gained access to areas of their network and would have had access to patient information, including photographs. The clinic was unable to rule out the possibility that patient information was stolen.
The criminal group, known only as REvil, published an update on its darknet webpage, whereby they claimed the "intimate photos of customers" were "not a completely pleasant sight".
Although it is not yet known whether the information has indeed been circulated, data breach specialist, Paul Cahill [below] at Fletchers Data Claims, here examines how those affected would find themselves eligible to pursue a legal case.
FletchersData Claims' Paul Cahill
What we know about the attack
Transform is a specialist weight loss and cosmetic surgery group, offering treatments such as breast augmentation, rhinoplasty, liposuction, labiaplasty, and gender-affirming surgery. In total, the hacker group claim to have stolen 900 gigabytes of personal data; including medical history, names and addresses, religion, ethnicity, and specific surgery inquiries.
It is understood that before and after photographs, showing patients who describe themselves to be at their most vulnerable, made up a large proportion of the data.
Our concern for patients
When any personal data is leaked, this can cause distress; but in the case of Transform Hospital Group, the distress could be amplified due to the suggestion made by the hacker group, that intimate photographs were included in the data accessed. Transform Hospital Group has released a statement to its customer base stating that they cannot be sure whether the photographs were or were not accessed, and this is unlikely to provide much reassurance.
Many of those who undergo cosmetic surgery are likely to be in an emotionally vulnerable place even before their personal information is taken. Some patients have explained that they are experiencing feelings of anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphia; whereby a person spends an excessive amount of time worrying about perceived flaws in their appearance. For people such as this, the additional fear of having sensitive photographs published on a public platform could be, frankly, terrifying.
We are supporting numerous patients who have undergone surgical procedures such as labiaplasty, breast augmentation, and liposuction.
We are also particularly concerned about the emotional welfare of transgender and non-binary patients, who may have visited the clinic for gender-affirming surgery. These patients may have further concerns at the prospect of having photographs of such a personal nature exposed; specifically, as they fall into a marginalised group that is known to face societal challenges, including discrimination.
The consequences of losing sensitive information
It is important to remember, that for those considering cosmetic surgery, it takes a great deal of mental strength to make that first contact. Being then met with a negative experience can be life-altering.
In one particular case, a patient was left feeling suicidal following the initial outcome of the surgery. They were forced to undergo a revision procedure to correct the results; heightening the emotional distress all the more – and all this even before their photographs were stolen and threatened with exposure.
It is for these reasons that we believe patients may be entitled to compensation exceeding £10,000 and would urge anyone who believes themselves to be affected to come forward.
It is only by speaking with a specialist legal team that patients will understand their rights, and this might mean the difference between suffering in silence and being rightfully compensated for the damage.