Benefits And Drawbacks Of Plastic Surgery

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When discussing medical ethics, plastic surgery, typically, is the last controversy to come to mind. However, this topic needs much more attention than it receives. Plastic surgery can present many dangers but also bring many benefits to those faced with undergoing a procedure. Some of the most common procedures performed include breast augmentation, cleft lip/palate correction, burn cases, and many more. The most apparent difference between each of these procedures, other than the location on the body, is the degree of necessity each presents. For instance, most cases of breast augmentation are considered an option, whereas, cleft lip/palate procedures are more of a necessity to improve a person’s quality of life. It can be argued that all procedures are meant to improve a person’s quality of life, but first we need to consider the benefits and drawbacks to determine whether the procedure presents an unnecessary danger. Do the benefits of plastic surgery outweigh the drawbacks?

One argument in favour of plastic surgery can be presented from the medical perspective. According to Stanford Children’s Health, ranked in all ten pediatric specialities by U.S News and World Report, cleft lip and/or palate is a birth abnormality that occurs when the roof of an infant’s mouth and lip do not properly fuse together. On average, there are roughly 6,800 infants in the United States born with a cleft lip and/or palate. This may seem insignificant compared to how large the population of the U.S is but these are 6,800 babies who have just come into the world already off to a rocky start. Since the U.S is a very developed country, this problem can be more easily taken care of than in other countries such as Uganda. Uganda is classified as a third world country due to its underdeveloped government and economy. An estimated 1,000 infants are born with cleft lip/palate in the country of Uganda. This abnormality can result in many alternative issues that affect their daily lives. Such as psychological problems, dental health complications, speech, feeding, and hearing. Despite this being an abnormality involving the mouth, it affects hearing because children become more susceptible to glue hear due to poor draining in an ear canal. Cleft lip/palate is one example of a procedure that would be considered a necessity due to the detrimental complications that could potentially arise. This procedure could allow a child to grow up feeling confident in themselves and society.

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An argument against plastic surgery can also be made from the medical perspective. In 2007, a study had been conducted by Randy A. Sansone and Lori A. Sansone, a professor from Departments of Psychiatry and Internal Medicine at Wright State University School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio, to show a correlation between plastic surgery, suicide, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). BDD is when an individual imagines a defect or blemish after surgery or when there is one, it becomes more severe to them than it really is. The study consisted of 13,000 U.S. women, 3,500 Swedish women, and an assortment of Finnish, Danish, and Canadian women. This makes the results of the study generalizable due to the globality of the sample, however the results cannot be generalized to men because the study only includes women. The main procedure each woman had undergone was breast augmentation. The results suggested a slightly increased rate of suicides in the sample. There is no indication this increase could be due to random chance however an explanation for these results was provided. Patients of breast augmentation procedures are more likely to begin smoking cigarettes, possibly resulting in a lower body mass. These women also tend to have more abortions and fewer live births, putting them at further risk for fatality. The results of the BDD portion of the study also suggest an increased risk of developing the disorder by 6-14%. The general population rate sits at 1% while patients of cosmetic surgery waver between 7-15%. Symptoms of BDD include increased anger and hostility, lower self-esteem, and increased ‘perfectionism’, and finally increased risk for Axis II disorders. Axis I, (BDD) are clinical disorders whereas Axis II are personality disorders and mental retardation. These mental health declines can also be a result of insecurity. Jenna Goudreau, a reporter on women’s leadership at Forbes, wrote about a woman who had undergone breast augmentation. Goudrea applies the use of confidentiality in this case by not releasing the woman’s name, strengthening the claims and credibility of the author. The woman Goudrea writes about got the implants removed six months later because her peers made her feel insecure about her decision and body. The opinions of others may be a cause for the increased depression or suicide in patients. A final argument against plastic surgery from the medical perspective involves botched procedures. It is very common for U.S citizens to travel abroad to get surgery at a cheaper price. An estimated 375,000 procedures take place each year in Colombia; 75,000 are on foreigners. Colombia is the second country most popular for plastic surgery, beaten only by South Korea. In 2016, Miguel Soffia investigated the amount of botched surgeries in Colombia. During the investigation he learned that doctors did not want to wait for available seats in college nor spend the money for four years of education to receive an adequate degree, so they left for Brazil where they would get their certifications. A Brazilian university offered a few months course, cheaper than those in Colombia so those doctors could receive a certificate. They would then go back to their country and begin performing procedures they had no experience in. This resulted in patients having extreme scarring and, in some cases, fatality. By looking at the medical perspective, we can more thoroughly see the physical and mental damages that an individual can experience. We can also see short term and long-term effects of surgery.

An argument for plastic surgery can be made from the economic perspective. According to Brad Tuttle, a reporter at TIME magazine who specializes in personal finance and travel, states that plastic surgery can be described as an economic indicator. To see the indication, you look at the growth areas. For example, breast, butt, and cheek implants, etc. increased by 38% in 2011. This shows us that the economy is beginning to stabilize. If the economy is flourishing, people are more likely to spend money on elective, more expensive procedures. If the economy is suffering, people are more likely to spend money on cheaper procedures such as botox or laser hair removal. Not only does plastic surgery provide an indication of economic state, it immensely contributes to economic revenue. Burt Constable, a journalist for the Daily Herald, says that in 2012, 14.6 million procedures were performed in America, adding more than $10 billion each year to the American economy. This can further be verified by Juju Chang and Victoria Thompson, reporters for ABC News, who explain that Americans spend an estimated $12 billion on cosmetic enhancements. To get a more global look, Ho Kyeong Jang, a writer for the Korea Exposé, a South Korean newspaper, provides the statistic that revenue in 2014 from plastic surgery was $107 million. Alexandra Stevenson is a business correspondent for the New York Times, she was based in Hong Kong, China and various parts of Asia for years, giving her the expertise to know about South Korea’s economy. South Korea, known as the plastic surgery capital of the world, brings in more tourists than any other country. The South Korean government expects to have 1 million tourists each year by 2020. This is a prediction, so it is not expected to be exact, weakening this piece of evidence. However, the government gives $4 million a year to promote medical tourism in hopes to increase the profits. Most of the tourists’ flood from China for their procedures. The South Korean hospitals are considered more hygienic and have greater experience appealing to Chinese women who come for more complex procedures such as double jaw surgery, this being the most popular among Chinese women. Looking at plastic surgery from this viewpoint is helpful when determining if the benefits outweigh the drawbacks because we can see how the practice affects an entire country, not just an individual.

An argument can be made against plastic surgery as well regarding lawsuits. According to Emilie Plesset, a journalist at the Daily Beast, 15 women are suing Gerald Stanley Jr., the medical director of SCULPT Contemporary Cosmetic Surgery. Each woman experienced a botched surgery from him, leaving them scarred and in pain. The women, whose names are not mentioned for privacy reasons, claim Stanley Jr. told them he was a qualified surgeon but according to the women, he did not have proper experience nor certification. A more extreme example involves women from 65 countries. According to The Local, a German newspaper, Poly Implant Prothese, (PIP), made industrial grade implants that have much higher rupture rates than the standard implants. Six distributors of the implants, including Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, Mexico, Brazil and Syria sued TUV Rheinland, the safety standards firm in Germany, for $38 million. 1,700 women who had received the implants also sued TUV for a total of about $31 million, $18,000 each. During a plastics lawsuit, not only can one person’s life be ruined, but so can many. The plaintiff is dissatisfied, emotionally and physically. The defendant, in most cases, can lose their job, their reputation, etc. It is beneficial to review plastics from this perspective because both the views of the patient and the surgeon can be accounted for.

Before I began my research, I was strongly against plastic surgery. I thought it was demeaning, a waste of resources and overall not necessary. Growing up in a generation where the focus is beauty and fame, I saw many figures making these changes to their bodies and being scolded for it. I thought that plastic surgery affected relationships, changed opinions and people. I never considered why people would truly need work done on them such as the cleft lip children from Uganda. After reviewing my research, I now see why plastics are so important and how they make life better. I am not completely for plastic surgery, but I am no longer completely against it.

I would like to further research plastic surgery from an ethical perspective to examine the controversy between teenagers and plastics. As teens see famous figures who they look up to such as the Kardashians and female rappers have procedures done, it is more than likely that they already consider and attempt to get procedures themselves. 


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