Monday, 9 January 2012

Plastic people

The news that forty thousand British women may have faulty breast implants, 95% of them fitted by private clinics for cosmetic reasons, highlights the extent to which plastic surgery has become a part of many people's lives.

As well as breast implants, facelifts, nose jobs and stomach reductions have become viewed not just as something self-obsessed Hollywood celebrities spend money on but as a treat that teenagers save up for and couples buy each other as wedding presents.

It's all a long way from the pioneering work done by surgeons in the Second World War on disfigured airmen.  The desire to look like people in film or on TV is of course not new but the ability to routinely turn that desire into reality clearly is.

The thousands of cosmetic procedures carried out every year are a huge waste of the medical expertise gained by surgeons over many years of training and professional experience, expertise which could and should be used for treating people with serious medical conditions.  Doctors can be struck off by the General Medical Council if they carry out medically unnecessary operations for personal profit.  That definition should be extended to plastic surgery which should be limited to post-operative or post-injury reconstruction rather than cosmetic enhancement to fit into the celebrity-obsessed media's model of what people should look like.

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