Brazilian TV Star Andressa Urach was recently in the news as an example of cosmetic surgery gone wrong. Urach had successfully had several cosmetic procedures and was undergoing yet another when things went wrong, and she went into septic shock and almost died. She is still recovering from her surgery and found that she had been dosed with silicone gel 200 times what is allowed by the FDA. When such episodes occur, there is widespread discussion in the media about cosmetic surgery, its downfalls and how it can be taken to the extreme.
Is cosmetic surgery really to blame? Is it wrong to fix something that we don’t like about ourselves? If so, then what about myriad other things we do to feel better about ourselves? Like dieting or exercising or even makeup. Some of you may say that there is no direct comparison – that we don’t go under the knife when we do these activities. I say, it is the underlying principle. Let’s say I was so bent upon reaching a certain “ideal” weight, I was starving myself – is this not serious? Or if I exercise so hard that I keep injuring myself. Or I put on so much makeup that my health is affected. In all these cases, it is not the activity per se but my obsession with some fake idea of who or what I should be that is the problem. It is my abuse of a perfectly healthy and normal activity that makes trouble. It is the same case with cosmetic surgery. What, in general, is a reasonable, acceptable and significant field of medicine is abused to an extent where there are serious consequences.
Should there be mandatory counseling for patients considering plastic surgery? I would say it depends. As with any other surgery the surgeon should walk the patient through the procedure, list the pros and cons, recommend what is suitable for the patient from a medical perspective. In reputable hospitals with qualified surgeons this is exactly what happens. The doctor will not make the decision for the patient – rather give his professional opinion on what the patient requests. If the patient wants a 10th surgery to fix their face, a trustworthy surgeon will give his honest opinion on it but will go ahead with the surgery if the patient makes the decision to go ahead. It is not just limited to Plastic Surgeons it is a standard practice across all fields of medicine. No other counseling is required; the patient is not leaned upon to make their decision in a certain way.
Now, sane people considering cosmetic surgery for the right reasons will make the right decisions. People who are poor decision makers, who are influenced by external factors, who don’t understand cosmetic surgery and don’t take the trouble to research their hospitals and doctors sometimes end up having horrific experiences. It is true that cosmetic surgery is marketed as a solution to all your aesthetic problems, a miracle cure. But so is every pharmaceutical drug. Every single drug on the market today has a long list of side effects, which you would know if you ever read the label, but you don’t see the world objecting so heavily. Prescription drug abuse is a common problem in many countries. Is taking all the drugs off market the solution? No, of course not. It is the patients’ responsibility to make sure that they’re taking the right drugs, keeping them safe and not abusing them. We trust that pharmacies are dispensing medications to the right people. If a dodgy pharmacy or doctor is administering meds without necessary prescriptions, it is not the pharmaceutical companies’ problem or a drug issue. It is a matter of ethics and irresponsible behavior.
It is said that our society sets such unattainable standards of beauty that we feel compelled to change ourselves to meet those standards. It is true, but again, it is the case with many other things in life. What is “ideal” is not realistic. We make the choices which shape our life and are responsible for it. So I say, let us take ownership of our life and our decisions and not throw mud on cosmetic surgery. In this case, it is a valuable field of medicine which has changed millions of lives for the positive. Piling on extra regulation is only going to make things difficult for the right folks wanting this for the correct reasons. Others will always find means and places to get things done in the long run.