Monday, 16 November 2009

Surgical free-for-all

Once again there's a call for better regulation of plastic surgery* to prevent tragic botch-ups and stop inexperienced medics from doing risky procedures.

Demand for cosmetic surgery jumped again last year, but there are no controls on it apart from a voluntary code of practice that's easily ignored.

In France all advertising of cosmetic procedures is banned, and only registered specialists can do them. Quite right too when most of the operations are medically unnecessary and can ruin people's lives if they go wrong.

The London Independent mentions Jill Saward, ex lead singer of Shakatak, who almost died during a facelift after complications caused by high blood pressure. "I was an idiot, I should have thought much more carefully about it" she says.

One solution would be to ban cosmetic surgery altogether, but I think people should be able to make up their own minds about it, as long as they are made fully aware of the serious risks involved.

An estimated 100,000 procedures are done in Britain every year, many by doctors with no specialist training. Things like Botox injections and laser peels are often done by staff with no medical qualifications at all. How can this be allowed?

If only women (and a growing number of men) could accept the way they look as perfectly okay, without comparing themselves with digitally enhanced models and finding a long list of imaginary defects. Then plastic surgery wouldn't be such a boom industry and the sacrifice of innocent flesh to finance someone's millionaire lifestyle might lose its attraction.

But if misguided souls will insist on putting themselves under the knife, at least the surgeon's competence should be properly vouched for.

* Surgery done privately that is. There are of course very strict controls on cosmetic surgery done by the NHS.


  1. I strongly believe that all women everywhere must be made to read Naomi
    Wolf's 'The Beauty Myth' -

    The malady is fast spreading to India too.

  2. Ramana - Sorry to hear plastic surgery is popular in India too. Is there no end to this madness? I agree, The Beauty Myth is excellent.

  3. I am told the Botox only lasts a short time. The best natural beauty asset is to have smiling eyes.

    I am proud of my lines earned from the university of life.

  4. Grannymar - I agree, smiling eyes attract my attention instantly. So many people have quite lifeless eyes. Or even coolly appraising eyes.

  5. Not for me I'm afraid although if I were filthy rich, I might opt for a 'tummy tuck'. The latest fad here is paying about the same amount for such procedures as facelifts and liposuction etc to travel to Asia where it's done by so called 'qualified' doctors who would not make it within the Australian system. Quite an industry going on in places such as Singapore and Malaysia. Cheap too. Interestingly, I have a friend who is receiving botox injections to relieve migraine. We've yet to see if it works.

  6. Baino - My concern about having it done in another country is what happens if there's a problem once you're back home. In the UK it's usually the hard-pressed NHS that has to sort things out.

  7. What doesn't hit the papers Nick, on these outlandish and expensive procedures is that there are often devastating side effects - death is the only mentioned that I see/read.
    I've known of 2 strokes on the op table and heard of paralysis and appalling disfigurement. And all for what?
    A face that can't express emotions?
    A 21 year old bum on a 60 year old body?
    It is all incredibly sad.

  8. There are plenty of valid reasons for cosmetic surgery, but these probably account for a small percentage of the actual procedures performed. I'd suggest taxing frivolous procedures heavily as a disincentive, with the revenue funneled to the NHS.

  9. www - Very true about the side-effects. And a lot of them are covered up - by the families out of embarrassment and upset and by the clinics because it's bad for business. If we knew the full extent of the downside it would be pretty shocking.

    Thrifty - Excellent idea. I see no reason why unnecessary cosmetic surgery shouldn't be taxed heavily in favour of genuinely necessary treatments. And yes, cosmetic surgery related to severe burns, mastectomies etc is valid enough.

  10. Hette has a heart attack and is taken to hospital. While on the operating table she has a near death experience, during which she sees God and asks if this is the end for her.
    God says no and explains that she has another 30-40 years to live.
    As soon as she had recovered, Hette figured that since she's got another 30 or 40 years, she might as well stay in the hospital and have the face-lift, liposuction, breast augmentation and tummy tuck that she had always promised herself. So she did and she even changed the colour of her hair!
    But tragedy - some weeks later, as Hette is leaving hospital, she is knocked over and killed by a car just as she left the hospital.
    When Hette arrives in front of God, she asks, "I thought you said I had another 30-40 years?".
    God replies, "I didn't recognize you."

  11. Ramana - I like it! It's weird how unrecognisable people become after plastic surgery. You look at the photo of some celeb and you think there must be a mistake, she looks like someone else.

  12. I find it quite bizarre that cosmetic surgery is on the rise when the economy is in such poor shape nearly everywhere. That said, there should absolutely be more control over the competence of surgeons performing such procedures. If only more people realized that there is great beauty in imperfection, and that perfect symmetry can be boring, to say nothing of the incredible wastefulness of energy being spent on such shallow endeavors.

  13. Things can go wrong to the point of someone wishing they'd died. Stars have the money to get the best surgeons and they still come out looking wonky, so for the rest of us, we're really taking a risk.

    By the way, someone in my extended family got a tummy tuck last year and while her stomach is enviably flat, my goodness, it was MAJOR surgery with the scars to go with it. Not for me.

  14. Heart - The irony is that while someone may look charmingly "imperfect" before surgery, after it they still look imperfect but no longer charming. They just look fake.

    Liz - Absolutely, even the most experienced surgeons can make a mess of it. As someone said recently, the surgeon isn't you so their idea of how you want to look won't be the same as yours, and the chances are you'll be disappointed.

  15. unless you've been disfigured in an accident or the like I just cannot see the point of putting yourself in such a risk! Some people have too much time and money for their own good!

  16. Conor - Very true about the time and money. If they were struggling to pay the bills, they wouldn't be able to gamble with their health and sanity so casually.