Cosmetic Surgery and Body Image
Cosmetic surgery is becoming an increasingly common surgical procedure, constituting a multibillion dollar industry and is directed overwhelmingly at female clients (Morgan 1991:25-33). According to Susan Sherwin (1996:59) it is virtually unregulated, and often poses a significant risk to clients who invest years of savings for these dangerous procedures, motivated by a culture that demands female bodies and faces to conform to a limited range of stereotypes. This practice clearly poses some substantial moral questions.
- Cosmetic Surgery
Fig. 1. A Model of the Relationship Between Body Image and Cosmetic Surgery.
- Principle of primacy of patient welfare. “This principle is based on a dedication to serving the interests of the patient. Altruism contributes to the trust that is central to the physician-patient relationship. Market forces, societal pressures and administrative exigencies must not compromise this principle.” (2002:244). It is the interest of the patient (not the desire) that is important. Market forces, i.e., if I don’t do this surgery someone else will, must not dictate treatment decision. Societal pressures, i.e., a woman should look like this, must not be considered relevant to treatment planning.
- Principle of patient autonomy. This section covers the normal issues relating to autonomy and includes the following statement “patient’s decisions about their care must be paramount, as long as these decisions are in keeping with ethical practice and do not lead to demands for inappropriate care.” The surgeon maintains the right (and is ethically bound to exercise it) to only carry out appropriate care. The decision regarding appropriateness is vested in the physician.
- The charter also identifies commitment to honesty with patients as a professional responsibility of physicians towards patients, a commitment to honesty rules out any pandering to patients’ desires.