Cosmetic surgery is one of the spheres that have become commercial and widely popular. Nowadays, it is hard to surprise someone with the news about people changing the shape of their noses, lips, ears, breasts, as well as other visual body parts. At the same time, cosmetic surgery is an elective surgery, which can be significantly differentiated from other kinds of surgeries. Unfortunately, the feeling of easy accessibility of such services creates certain misconceptions in the society. Such misconceptions often lead to traumas or graver consequences, endangering people’s lives. Thus, there is a reason for discussing the dangers of cosmetic surgery and the possibilities of restricting its public access. Such cases create controversy in the society regarding the need for restriction and additional policies preventing people from making unnecessary surgical corrections. One group of people protects the citizens’ rights for doing any operations with their bodies. Others have the opinion that cosmetic surgery cannot be accessed by any person, who has the money. Thus, the need for discussion of the ethical issue of cosmetic surgery evolves when it becomes connected with business. This paper investigates the question of public and commercial accessibility of plastic surgery, addressing the opinions of contemporary scholars and experts in this sphere.
Before discussing ethical and healthcare aspects of the current question, one has to define the phenomenon of elective cosmetic surgery and its effect. Thus, scholars indicate that cosmetic surgery is a kind of elective surgery. At the same time, they indicate that the term “elective” is used for non-emergency surgery, which is medically necessary but can be delayed (“Elective Surgery Patient Information”). Furthermore, they subdivide this type of surgery into urgent, semi-urgent and non-urgent surgical intrusion. One presumes that cosmetic surgery is a non-urgent operation. Scholars associate such types of operations with no pain, dysfunction or disability. Moreover, they regard such operations as those, which are unlikely to deteriorate quickly or have no potential for becoming an emergency (“Elective Surgery Patient Information”). At the same time, there are reports, which argue that such surgery can result in complications or even lead to mortality. For instance, Campbell (2011) states that women constitute a majority of cosmetic surgery clients, which have negative complications and even deaths. For instance, Campbell indicates that one of the victims of this procedure is Miss Argentina Solagne Magnano, who died because of buttock implants and injections (Campbell). That is why, one can state that such surgery is not safe, as it might be advertised or described. This fact raises the need for discussion of the level of regulation of public accessibility for such procedures.
First cases of the usage of cosmetic surgery had a practical character. Thus, such procedures as placing breast implants were used for patients with breast cancer, which had mastectomies (Vlad and O’Connor). However, several years after such surgeries, people started applying this surgical method towards ordinary patients, willing to correct their breast size and shape. These, and other surgical intrusions, are connected not only with the will for having more aesthetic body, but also have deep psychosocial reasons. For instance, Sullivan claims that “the more attractive a person is, the more competent and in control of their lives they feel, affirming the attractiveness stereotype” (25). Therefore, people see cosmetic surgery as a way for increasing control over their lives. People see surgery as a fast and convenient way to achieve this because clinics of cosmetic surgery are easy to find and the financial expenses can be covered. That is why, cosmetic surgery has grown from a surgical procedure into a social problem. The reason for this assumption is that it is more an aesthetic modification of the body. This factor raises an ethical dilemma of deciding whether the result of the performed operation is aesthetic and if it suits the needs of a person. The danger of cosmetic surgery is not only in its possible negative ethical effect but in its disfigurement or mortality. One doubts that a person, who has no real need for cosmetic operation, would agree to operate if he or she is aware of possible negative consequences.
First, one has to denote cosmetic surgery from other associated operations and define its risk factors. Thus, cosmetic surgery should be differentiated from plastic and reconstructive surgeries. The reason for this is that it reshapes normal parts of the body, which function well and do not cause any physical discomfort. At the same time, plastic surgery repairs injured, deformed or destroyed parts of the body (Vlad and O’Connor). Reconstructive surgery is a part of plastic one, aiming at reshaping congenial, developmental or post-traumatic effects. Furthermore, people have to be aware of all the risks and complications associated with cosmetic surgery, in order to avoid negative repercussions. For instance, such operation as augmentation rhinoplasty may have such complications as visible grafts, asymmetric contours, infection, bleeding, hypertrophic scarring, decreased epicanthal fold and others (Aston, Steinbrech, and Walden).
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Thus, such perspectives are far from being pleasant if a patient is not aware of them and expects quick and convenient modification of one’s body. Moreover, some operations involve more complications that others, as in the case with belt lipectomy. Aston, Steinbrech, and Walden indicate that in their first 70 consecutive patients, 51% had at least one complication, 7% had more than one complication and 44% had no complications. Additionally, their statistics show that people over the age of 35 have 100% complication rate. Among revealed pathologies were “seroma (30%), wound separation (20%), psychiatric difficulties (8.6%), infections (4.3%), tissue necrosis (4.3%), pulmonary embolism (2.8%) and venous thrombosis (1.4%)” (820). Pulmonary embolism and venous thrombosis are one of the gravest negative consequences of cosmetic surgery that often lead to death. At the same time, experts claim that some doctors lack either experience or treatment when they are faced with the cases of complications.
One should indicate that the clinic, which performs cosmetic operations, uses the method of informed consent, attempting to avoid the responsibility in case of complications. At the same time, they indicate that typical complications might be related to anesthesia, infection, fluid buildup under the skin, bleeding, scarring and skin breakdown or numbness from nerve damage (“Cosmetic Surgery”). However, despite these striking adverse effects, the statistics shows that people tend to use cosmetic surgery more often. Thus, Goudreau indicates that, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, these operations constitute a $10.1 billion business each year in the US. At the same time, the numbers of young women doing cosmetic operations keep increasing. One of the factors, which provoke this tendency, is social media. Scholars argue that that the amount of stories and videos involving celebrities’ cosmetic operation impacts their popularity (Wood). For instance, Wood claims that such surgery is a hot trend because people, who rejected this operation several years ago, are now “increasingly deciding to “go under the knife” (6). Among such people are obese, willing to increase the size of breast and baby-boomers fighting with aging by means of surgery. Moreover, the exploitation of the production of cosmetic surgery in various TV shows impacted its domestication (Tait). At the same time, certain surgery practitioners, as well as mass media celebrities, tend to consider that this is a safe operation.
Among the reasons for claims that cosmetic surgery is safe, is the opinion that its techniques have significantly increased over the past years (“Risks and Complication in Cosmetic Surgery”). At the same time, some practitioners tend not to discuss certain controversial aspects of their activity. For instance, there has been a great debate involving the issues of safety and ethical standards, addressing breast augmentation surgery. Davis argues that the development of breast implants has always been an enterprise fraught with difficulties. Thus, despite the fact that silicone breast injection was banned by the Food and Drug Administration in the 1960s, it was actually practiced. Moreover, silicone implants were on the market several years earlier than they were approved in 1976 (Davis). Such cases usually have been concealed from public discussion until the clients of surgeons started initiating lawsuits. One of such examples is the case of 1984, when a court in Nevada awarded one and a half million dollars to a woman in punitive damages “after her implants had leaked silicone” (Davis 30).
Additionally, clients supporting the accessibility of cosmetic surgery indicate that they regard their body as their property. Therefore, they reject the implementation of restricting policies for the clients of cosmetic surgeons. For instance, a woman after a facelift indicated “if it is your body and you want to have it done, why not?” (Conrad and Leiter 209). However, such cases lead to paradox situations when parents want cosmetic surgery for their children. They claim that they want their children to look perfect, which can be done with the help of cosmetic surgeon. At the same time, they ignore the fact that the organism of a child is growing, and his or her appearance would drastically increase after the activation hormones. Additionally, teens might have psychical problems with accepting the imperfection of their bodies. Therefore, they believe that operation can make them look more attractive. At the same time, scholars criticize such attempts. For instance, they argue that “this is a time when their bodies aren’t fully formed, yet teens feel so much pressure to be instantly perfect” (Vlad and O’Connor 7). At the same time, the surgeons tend to fulfill the needs of their customers because cosmetic surgery clinics bring more profit, rather than health oriented institutions. Therefore, the paper suggests that the society requires a policy, restricting the citizens from performing cosmetic surgery without an adequate need. Additionally, it has to address the cases of abuse of cosmetic operations because of addiction to them. Such policies should also restrict the surgeons from orienting purely on profit. Consequently, alongside with age and reasonability restriction for clients and this policy should address the surgeons, preventing them from malpractice.
Summarizing the discussed topic, one comes to a conclusion that cosmetic surgery has become a social threat, which leads to numerous negative ethic and health issues. Certain surgery practitioners and mass media claim about the safety of such surgery because of the advanced technologies. However, scholars indicate that there are numerous adverse effects, resulting in psychological discomfort and negative health conditions. Among the gravest cases are pulmonary embolism and venous thrombosis, resulting to death. Thus, despite the positive experiences of celebrities, the society needs to discuss negative cases in cosmetic surgery clinics throughout the country. Additionally, there is a dangerous trend among teens, who believe that cosmetic surgery can improve the way they look. Thus, they should be restricted from such operations because their organisms are still growing. Therefore, the society needs an adequate policy, restricting certain categories of people from abusing the available services of cosmetic surgery. Likewise, such restrictions should be imposed on surgery clinics, which have increased statistics of adverse effects because of cosmetic operations.
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