Sunday, October 27, 2019

Do You Really Need Plastic Surgery?

We live in an era where plastic surgery is routine.   Indeed, in many parts of the country, plastic surgery is an expected rite of passage.   Years ago, face lifts and ‘tummy tucks’ were done on those in middle age who were trying to experience a surgical time machine.  Now, folks in their 20’s are having all kinds of work done, not to recreate a prior image, but to create a new one.

The traditional scalpel in only one of many tools used to perform body design work.  There is a smorgasbord of injectable fillers that plastic surgeons, dermatologists and other physicians provide to a public who is zealously combating every wrinkle.  Once a person is of the mindset that the only good wrinkle is a dead wrinkle, he will commit yourself to a lifelong odyssey of cosmetic work.  These folks are generally never fully satisfied with how they look.  They are always finding imperfections that they target for correction.
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I enthusiastically recommend readers to read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, The Birthmark, which speaks so elegantly to this issue, despite that it was published in 1843.

There is an important role for plastic surgery in the medical arena.  These talented professionals perform amazing work in reconstructing folks who have suffered trauma and accidents.  I also recognize that cosmetic surgery provides significant benefits to many patients.  However, it is beyond dispute that our society is preoccupied with physical appearance and is striving for an idealized an unrealistic level of beauty.   Many folks blame Barbie who convinced generations of girls and women that she was the paragon of beauty and attractiveness.   

Ladies, slip into these comfy slippers!

A few days before I penned this post, I read about women who bring designer shoes to podiatrists so they can have surgery that will permit them to wear their choice of stylish footwear.   Indeed, there are foot surgeons who specialize in these procedures.   My reaction?  Outrageous.   We’re not referring here to correcting podiatric deformities.   Can a doctor defend performing surgery on healthy feet so that a pair of shoes, probably not designed for a human, can fit in?  I am sure that there are analogous absurd examples of surgeries and procedures involving other body parts that should embarrass the medical profession.

Patient demand doesn’t justify medical excess.   Physicians need to call out abuses in our own house.  I expect that those practitioners who are bringing disrepute to the profession will claim that they are fulfilling an important medical function.  I say, if the shoe fits…

3 comments:

Rich Maranoff M.D. said...

Michael, I think you are getting to worked up here. You should be addressing the people getting the work done rather than the ones doing it. People will always fill a need that presents itself, especially if money is involved. People getting plastic work feel they are not right in the eyes of the rest of us. This can be after a bad accident or what they see in the mirror. This will take a cultural change rather than making it seem like some Doc,s are doing a bad thing. Fitting in, is and always has been tough. We put the bar too high.

Anonymous said...

I don't totally agree with Rich. There are just some procedures all doctors should say no to!

Michael Kirsch, M.D. said...

RIch, thanks for your comment. Many excellent and reasonable accommodations morph into absurdity. We all support individuals who need seeing eye dogs to have full access to society. This does not mean we have to support folks bringing support animals, such as snakes, pits, etc., into airplanes. I agree with you that there is a role and a need for plastic surgery. I do think (and presume you agree) that having foot surgery on normal feet in order to fit into designer footware is absurd. The medical profession, if it wishes to be a profession, needs to govern itself as such. Wherever one draws the line on these things, this example is surely beyond it. All the best, MK

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