The modern world has its own tendencies that involve appearance. The focus is placed on the idea that in order to be successful, people need to be beautiful. It is said that cosmetic surgery can make individuals more attractive. The paper discusses that the abuse of cosmetic surgery is a serious medical and ethical issue. The statement is based on the fact that cosmetic surgery involves health and life risks. The paper analyses the problem of abusing cosmetic surgery in terms of standardization and legislation. The idea that operations are dangerous is stressed. Additionally, cosmetic surgery is viewed as a violation of some cultural traditions around the world. High cost and risks do not stop people from cosmetic surgery. As a result, individuals are disfigured and damaged after cosmetic procedures. With this background, addiction to cosmetic surgery is viewed as a medical problem that needs to be legally solved.
Standardization of the Cosmetic Surgery Industry
A beautiful body is believed to be a foundation of a happy life. Millions of people want to improve their appearance by using cosmetic surgery. The abuse of cosmetic surgery (including injections) is a serious problem in the industry. The issue is stressed by the fact that there is no proper legalization and standardization in the given field. In order to protect people and ensure their safety, the industry has to be standardized.
To discuss the issue of cosmetic surgery, the main notion has to be defined. Cosmetic surgery is a medical operation that is performed to improve the appearance of a person. This type of surgery is known from the ancient times. In India, for example, plastic surgery was used in the 6th B.C. (Dhwty, 2023). Despite the fact that these kinds of operations are dangerous, the popularity of plastic surgery grows. People take a risk in order to look more attractive. The risk is associated with a number of complications that occur after surgery (infections, disfigure, and death). It should be noted that in some cultures, it is forbidden to change appearance. In China, for instance, Confucius formed a statement according to which people are given a body, skin and hair from parents, and they ought not to damage it (Chang, 2015).
However, many Chinese violate traditions for the sake of yanzhi that stands for “appearance value” (Xu, 2016). Even the high price of plastic surgery does not stop people. A Botox injection, for example, can cost approximately $400 while breast surgery costs between $3,500 and $6,000 (Hagy, n.d.). The problem is that individuals may get addicted to surgery. Sometimes, a new appearance becomes a project, and people do not stop until they start to “look like plastic clones of themselves” (Hagy, n.d.). In some instances, after operations, people become damaged, both physically and psychologically. This may be supported by the case of Timmie Jean Lindsey who was the first to do breast surgery in 1962 and had severe complication (Churcher, 2023). Among the resent data is an example of 64-year-old Clara Scott, who used the help of an unprofessional doctor and got seriously infected after an operation (Churcher, 2023). These and other examples prove that people ignore the risks when they have a chance to look prettier.
People also abuse plastic surgery. Plastic surgery includes “hand surgery, microsurgery, breast reconstruction, burn care, pediatric plastic surgery, general reconstruction, and aesthetic surgery” (Sinno et al., 2014). In the past, plastic surgery was used for medical purposes. It was applied to help soldiers who had suffered injuries in wars. Presently, plastic improvements are a dangerous part of the cult of beautiful bodies.
People often come to private clinics that pose a real threat. Sometimes, doctors do not have certificates and practice medicine without legal approval. As professionals, they lack knowledge as well as experience and may endanger their patients. Therefore, it is crucial to implement standardization for the whole industry.
Cosmetic Surgery Risks
Cosmetic surgery may present a risk to life. In most cases, danger is related to unprofessional surgeons who perform operations, absence of a qualified anesthesiologists, and insanitary instruments. As a result, people may be disfigured or even die. Still, some individuals are so obsessed with the idea of getting new looks that they agree to have surgery. The most common negative effects should be discussed in order to present objective information for people to consider.
Most surgical operations, no matter how small, have common factors of risk. According to Mercer, the president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeon, “about one percent of all operations, whether cosmetic, orthopedic or cardiac, result in an infection” (Tutton, 2020). In the context of cosmetic surgery, infections may also lead to disfigure. The chances of it increase when a patient undergoes several surgical procedures at the same time. Even liposuction is dangerous as it sometimes “requires a blood transfusion, which can dramatically increase the associated risks” (Tutton, 2020). In addition to this, there is a chance that nerves may be damaged during operations. Nerves may get permanently numb if a doctor makes a mistake during facelifts. Buttock implants may be painful and make it hard for a person to sit. The implant may harden and even be visible when a patient moves. Apart from the risks mentioned above, scarring is the most general side effect of surgery because “about four percent of the population do not form nice white scars, they form a very red, raised, lumpy scar” (Churcher, 2023).
Still, plastic surgery is popular. The official statistical data state that a few years ago, approximately 330,000 breast enlargement operations were performed in the United States (Churcher, 2023). Moreover, thousands of patients are not satisfied with their cosmetic surgery. Most importantly, people in the United States and other countries demand to stop operations on breasts. The reason for this is negative post effects. The effects include disfigurement, serious illnesses, chronic fatigue, and diseases of the auto-immune system (Churcher, 2023).
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One of the most recognizable examples of cosmetic surgery disfigure is the life of Michael Jackson. The pop-music king had to endure few operations that changed his appearance to the worst. However, this case is not as bad as other results of cosmetic surgeries. Sometimes, people die from cosmetic surgery.
In 2003, breast augmentation caused death of Julie Rubenzer. She went into a coma after her surgery and died. The woman had a bad reaction to anesthesia. Her doctor (unqualified for the job) ignored the danger to the last minute. Another famous case happened in 2010 when a woman known as a former Miss Argentina, Solange Magnano, died at the age of 37 after a surgery on her buttocks (Tutton, 2020). All the negative things that are commonly associated with such operations are proven by such disasters. Only in Florida, where plastic surgery is extremely popular, 36 people have died from it since 1997 (Sherr, 2023). It is hard to establish the data for disfigures as such occurrences are often covered up, because an “operation, which on average costs £4,000, has earned doctors and manufacturers in excess of £250 million in profits” (Churcher, 2017). It should be emphasized that the cosmetic surgery industry is an “unregulated mess” (Tutton, 2020). Patients suffer due to low standardization, and, therefore, cosmetic surgery abuse becomes an ethical problem.
There is no suitable legislation and standardization in the given industry. This fact allows doctors that do not have needed credentials operating at private clinics. Working conditions in such clinics leave much to be desired. There is not enough stuff that can ensure a patient’s safety (for instance, anesthesiologists and nurses). Additionally, uncertified doctors do not have privileges at hospitals. At the present stage, it is hard to solve this problem without interference from the government. Meanwhile, professionals suggest to follow some pieces of advice. According to Dr. Rod Rohrich, the president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, people who plan to have plastic surgery should be very careful (Sherr, 2023). It is better to talk to a few doctors and choose the one who is certified “by a board recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties” (Sherr, 2023). One should make sure that a person who is trained in anesthesiology will be present during an operation. Another matter to consider is privileges at hospitals that a doctor should have in case of a crisis. People are advised to find a “balance” between what is healthy and what is beautiful. Doctors’ mistakes can be much worse than the nature’s design.
Cosmetic Surgery in Traditional Cultures
Cosmetic surgery is considered to be against a natural order of things. Some traditional cultures have views that prohibit the use of cosmetic surgery. For example, in China, Confucius, as it was mentioned above, said that no changes should be made in a person’s appearance. To illustrate this point, the original phase in translation should be quoted. It is as follows: “We are given our body, skin and hair from our parents; which we ought not to damage” (as cited in Chang, 2015). People should respect their appearances and accept themselves.
Such policy helped people to appreciate other things, like intellectual and spiritual development. However, the notion of beauty has changed and an unattractive person is believed to have a sick body under the influence of modernization. The mass media popularize cosmetic surgery. A modern response to tradition is formulated in a phrase that says that “as the sick body is a metaphor of the weak nation, healing the sick body through Western anatomical medicine gradually became a metaphor of building a strong nation” (Riggs, 2022, p. 128). Generally, such a policy is motivated by economical indicators. According to the Annual Report of China’s Beauty Economy, “the sales volume of China’s beauty industry had increased more than 200 times in just two decades from 200 million yuan ($24 million USD) in 1982 to 52 billion yuan ($6.2 billion USD) in 2003” (Riggs, 2022, p. 128). Chinese people feel that make-up is not enough and start to perform surgery. This tendency denies the classical principals that were accepted in China for hundreds of years. In the middle of the 20th century, the so-called quest for beauty was negatively viewed. In that time, cosmetic surgery and makeup were forbidden (Riggs, 2012). However, social and cultural changes affected traditions. It may be stated that these traditions were protecting women from danger of cosmetic surgery. It is reported that “at least 200,000 people have been disfigured from cosmetic surgery in the last decade in China” (Riggs, 2022, p. 136). However, people still risk their health. For this reason, cosmetic surgery abuse is both medical and ethical problem.
For the sake of the argument, it should be noted that in some cultures, plastic surgery is not a violation of traditions. Surgeries are even encouraged. For centuries, in Africa, for example, people used cosmetic surgery to establish a place in society. In some cases, this tradition requires cutting off female genital organs. Operations are performed to gain a status of an adult and be able to get married (Hodgson, 2021, p. 85). Obviously, there are severe cases of blood lost, infections and other complications.
In Muslim culture, if surgery is performed to become more beautiful but not to remove a defect, it is strictly forbidden. Operations that are done to change, for example, the size of breasts and a form of a nose are believed to be actions of evil. The main principle is similar to the ideas of Confucius. People should not change the original body forms and shape. In Muslim culture, cosmetic surgery goes against Allah who created a person. According to the Quran (Verse 4:119), Allah informs his people that the devil will try to influence them and “command them and they will change Allah’s creation.” However, plastic surgery for the sake of health is allowed. For example, if a person suffers from some defect, than he or she can use surgery to remove it. Allah does not want to put a person in difficulty. Therefore, only actions that have religious benefit or help people in some way are permitted. Here, if a person has surgery in order to attain beauty, he or she violates cultural and religious norms. These norms are valid in the 21th century even under the circumstances of low standardization and legislation in the industry.
Addiction to Cosmetic Surgery
Another reason to standardize cosmetic surgery is that people become addicted to this kind of operations. Addiction to cosmetic surgery consumes a person who is unable to stop and abuses surgery despite negative consequences. The dependence may be followed by using as an example people who want to look like someone else. As a rule, the object of a visual desire is a celebrity.
Cosmetic surgery addiction can be considered as an obsession. It makes people change their bodies and faces too many times. The point is that these people never seem to achieve their ideal of beauty, but they also do not stop trying. Officially, this type of mental fixation is not treated as a disorder, like a drug or alcohol addiction. However, psychiatrists view it as a form of pathology. The common term is body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
People do not have limits of the number of operation that can be performed on one person. There is no legislation or standardization that properly covers this issue. Pitts-Taylor (2017), in her work, Surgery Junkies: Wellness and Pathology in Cosmetic Culture, analyses this matter. The author gives a number of examples that describe people who had a lot of surgeries, suffered pain, and said that “it was worth it” (Pitts-Taylor, 2017, p. 52). For instance, there is a patient, Lynn G. Hugo who has had many surgeries over a few years. To be exact, Lynn is “a middle-aged women who saw her cosmetic surgeon over fifty times” (Pitts-Taylor, 2017, p. 10). Lynn did not reach her ideal image and even took the case to the court. During conversations, she could not describe herself and answer the basic question about her personality that was disfigured too much. She was depressed and damaged. In addition, the patient considered herself to be a victim. She saw the situation from a perspective according to which she had rhinoplasty and other surgeries, because there was a choice and opportunity to perform them.
Pitts-Taylor used Lynn’s experience to analyze the question of cosmetic addiction within the historical context. This context includes such factors as:
- A discussion of cosmetic surgery as a common private practice that needs to be monitored and certified.
- An increased number of advertisements of cosmetic surgery in the mass media that tell people that operations are good.
- The willingness of doctors to perform surgery and a desire of a patient to have as many procedures as it is required to look perfect.
- The need to officially recognize the BDD in the DSM.
- The way that is used to deal with medical complaints and a low public response.
These and other points are valid. The idea about operations being harmful and dangerous is supported by “both historical and contemporary arguments against cosmetic surgery [that] have generally assumed that the given body is authentic and the altered body is unnatural” (Pitts-Taylor, 2017, p. 18). Meanwhile, individuals continue to experiment with their appearance and as a result are never satisfied.
The medical and ethical problem is that people are addicted to cosmetic surgery and do not seek help. Instead of this, they look for more features that can be changed. However, they should understand that excessive surgeries may have negative effects. These effects include permanent muscle damage, disfigured skin, and tissue as well. Scars make the visual picture worse. After a few operations, addicted people may be left with a body and fact that are irreparable damaged.
Another matter to discuss is the price. It is a known fact that cosmetic surgery is expensive. In most clinics, a nose may be done for more than $4,000, facelifts cost about $6,500, liposuction and eyelid surgery are more than $3,000 (Hagy, n.d.).
Addiction to cosmetic surgery is partly based on the low level of standardization and legislation. This fact means that people who have money may have as many operations as they want. Doctors also seldom refuse to perform surgery. The notion of the perfect body and face (for example, lips, eyes, breasts, etc.) is individual. Still, addicts often want to resemble their favorite movie star or any other celebrity. After an operation, individuals will find a reason to do one more surgery. The cycle continues. Patients have to realize that small faults are normal, and no one is perfect. Thus, people can save a lot of money and nerves if they accept reality.
Some people argue that they need cosmetic surgery to have a normal life. People may believe that their bad looks are the main source of all their problems. Their self-confidence is low. These people agree to have cosmetic surgery as they strongly believe that improved appearance will help them find a better job and have good relationships.
People who think that cosmetic surgery can help them to improve their current situation focus on advantages. It should be said that there are some positive aspects of this procedure. For example, individuals who suffer from overweight “can lose a large amount of body fat in a matter of hours” (Hagy, n.d.). After an operation, patients may feel better and maintain a healthier lifestyle. Nevertheless, the effect may be temporary and more operations could be needed. Apart from this surgery, facelifts are popular. The general idea behind facelifts is that a surgeon “can take 10 or 20 years off … appearance with a proper facelift” (Hagy, n.d.). The beauty that is created by this operation may look unnatural and bring more disappointment than joy.
Cosmetic surgery may be useful and make dreams come true. Still, the price is sometimes too big in terms of physical and psychological damage. For this reason, it is important to legislate and standardize the industry of cosmetic surgery.
With the help of cosmetic surgery, people introduce themselves to the cult of beautiful bodies. In some cases, individuals abuse cosmetic surgery in search for perfect looks. This is a serious medical and ethical problem that needs to be solved. A lot of risks are involved in cosmetic surgery (for example, infections, disfigure, cases of deaths). Cosmetic surgery also violates the traditions of some cultures (for instance, Chinese and Muslim). However, high risks and expensive operation do not stop people from having cosmetic surgery. The problem is that individuals find private clinics and use their services. These clinics may pose a threat.
Sometimes, surgeons who perform operation do not have certificates and practice medicine without legal approval. This fact explains a possibility of a failure of cosmetic surgery and negative consequences of operation. In this context, standardization and legislation are important. A proper standardization could ensure people’s safety and prevent cosmetic surgery abuse. It should be noted that some individual get addicted to cosmetic surgery (BDD).
Some people think cosmetic surgery can help them to improve their self-confidence. They should understand that cosmetic surgery may be a dangerous matter that requires a rational approach. Taken into consideration all the facts, it may be said that surgery may be used when people feel real discomfort and suffer from their appearance. In other situations, plastic surgery is no more than fashion. The main idea is that people have to find a “balance” between what is healthy and what is beautiful.