Cosmetic Surgery Summary: Should cosmetic surgery be banned? Introduction Author: Alex Deane ( United Kingdom ) Alex Deane won the World Universities Debating Championships 2004 in Singapore. Created: Friday, November 03, 2006 Last Modified: Context “Cosmetic surgery” (also known as “plastic surgery”) is surgery that is unnecessary from a medical perspective, but is carried out to improve appearance. Cosmetic surgery is an ancient practice. In the 8th century BC, the Indian surgeon Sushruta Samhita described what is known today as rhinoplasty (surgery to the nose) and otoplasty (to the ear). Body alteration more generally has been carried out by all peoples, from tribal tattoos to the neck-extending Kayans of Thailand. But modern medicine has made the possibilities of cosmetic surgery far more extensive. Anaesthesia has made procedures less unpleasant and less dangerous. In the aftermath of each of the two World Wars, cosmetic surgery leapt forwards as the demand for reconstructive surgery created skills and techniques that could be as easily applied to (perceived) improvements to image as to medical necessity. Consequently, cosmetic surgery has become increasingly popular. In 1948, fewer than 300 board-certified plastic surgeons were in practice in the USA; today the number is more than 4,000. In 2004 12 million cosmetic operations were conducted in the USA alone. Where America has led, much of the world has followed. Television shows and newspaper supplements are now devoted to cosmetic surgery and makeover programmes advocate it. Today more and more parts of the body can be “improved.” Once the possibilities for surgery were relatively restricted, now almost anything can be the subject of cosmetic surgery. To name but a few, common operations include abdominoplasty (a “tummy tuck” or reshaping/firming of the abdomen), blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), buttock implants/reductions, chemical “peels” (removal of acne scars and sagging skin), chin and cheek augmentation, lipectomy (or liposuction – removal of fat from the body), and rhytidectomy (a“face lift”) Among the most popular procedures are the otoplasty and rhinoplasty mentioned earlier, and finally and most commonly, surgery for the breasts: both mammaplasty ("breast enlargement/reduction") and mastoplexy (“breast lift”) – collectively known as “boob jobs.” Cosmetic surgery to genitalia is increasingly common. This article considers only cosmetic surgery carried out purely to improve appearance, and does not address plastic surgery for medical reasons, for example post-disfigurement reconstruction or remedial surgery. Arguments Pros Cons We live in a world that is image obsessed, and this kind of procedure That’s nice. But given that the reality is that we’re judged on our panders to that. We should promote the idea that appearance is not as appearance all the time, it’s perfectly rational to want to look good. important as character. People should be content with themselves and Nobody’s forcing anyone to have cosmetic surgery – the market is driven not be so hung up on their looks. by demand. There are dangers involved in any kind of surgery. Sometimes we must We should not restrict freedom of choice. Certainly there’s an element of accept those dangers, as they come in the course of necessary medical danger involved. But we let people box. We let people bungee jump. procedures. But with elective surgery – procedures people don’t need, They undertake these dangers for fun or for money. Why shouldn’t we let but rather merely want – the risks can’t be justified. These risks apply people undertake dangers in the pursuit of beauty, and higher self both to the surgery itself, and to the long term. For example, leaking esteem? silicone breast implants have been a widespread problem and can lead Furthermore, cosmetic surgery is becoming safer and safer. It is to death. Once, paraffin was often injected into the face to smooth increasingly strictly policed and sky-high legal pay-outs by bad surgeons wrinkles, with disastrous effects. Silicon often finds its way into other have ensured that practitioners take more and more care. Technology in parts of the body, such as the lymph glands, and can prevent the early surgery and in implants and so forth is forever improving. The scare detection of breast cancer as doctors often think real lumps are silicon stories the proposition talk about are the worst examples of thirty years leakage. Who today knows the full future implications of injecting the ago – they’re nothing to do with cosmetic surgery today. highly dangerous poison Botox into one’s face? To attempt to dress cosmetic surgery in the flag of feminism is absurd. If This freedom issue is particularly important to women, who have anything, cosmetic surgery is the latest phenomenon in the long history historically been subjugated by men, their bodies regarded as owned and of the objectification of women in society. Women are driven to meet for the use of men. Cosmetic surgery – the ultimate control over one’s male standards of beauty, exaggerating their shape and seeking to body, perhaps – is the latest stage in the emancipation of women and remain youthful lest their partner leave them for (often literally) a younger their ability to decide what happens to their bodies. Cosmetic surgery is model. Today many operations are arranged by male partners rather empowering. than by the women themselves. Cosmetically-enhanced celebrities are redefining definitions of attractiveness for new generations, leading young girls who would have been considered naturally beautiful in past decades to see themselves as plain and to seek their own surgical remedies. The pressures of appearance apply particularly to women. Pregnancy If women or anyone else are secure enough not to bother with cosmetic and ageing have predictable effects: they should be accepted with grace, surgery, then fine. But there are many who find that their appearance not fought against. The messages sent when some women have truly troubles them and that improving it would greatly enhance their procedures are firstly that the prejudices some have about appearance quality of life. If they can afford it, let them. are valid, and secondly that those women secure enough not to contemplate going under the knife are “letting themselves go.” Doctors should heal, not waste their talent on appearance. Precious People pay handsomely for cosmetic surgery. It costs the state nothing, talent and resources are spent on this frivolous activity. Surgeons should except in situations in which the operation is necessary medically. do medical operations that are needed, not cosmetic procedures that are Cosmetic surgery can turn a profit for hospitals that is put towards more desired. general medical areas. And doctors receive training and practice in difficult techniques which can then be used to help patients in genuine need. The black market argument applies to everything illegal. Of course that Cosmetic surgery happens because people want it – often, desperately. risk exists, but the number of those undertaking the activity will be If banned, cosmetic surgery will flourish on a black market. It will still smaller, as you concede. Lack of legal safeguards and medical happen, but it will be very expensive (and therefore only available to the accountability, and the probability that only badly qualified doctors will very rich) and it will be much more dangerous as it will be done by offer illegal operations will deter almost everyone from risking black unscrupulous doctors and outside all the safety precautions the legal market surgery. Fewer operations must be desirable if it is agreed that environment provides. the activity concerned should be banned. Black market activity will be vigorously policed – and after all, its usually pretty obvious if someone has had surgery. Cosmetic surgery is addictive: look at Michael Jackson, or Lolo Ferrarri, This is patronising, insulting and wrong. The vast majority of people who who got breast implant after breast implant despite the harm it did her have cosmetic surgery have one procedure and never look back. They’re body. The compulsion to change one’s body is often a symptom of a made happier and more secure in themselves because of it. It’s fine to deeper mental instability. It should be treated as a problem, not indulged oppose cosmetic surgery, but don’t falsely portray those that have it as and encouraged with surgery. It’s only a plaster patched over a much being mentally unstable. deeper problem. Pointing to accidental side-benefits of cosmetic surgery will not cover up The development of cosmetic surgery over the years has been the fact that its intention is to make money, not make people better. If a intertwined with that of reconstructive and more general medical surgery. fraction of the efforts pumped into it went into proper medicine, the Cosmetic surgery has greatly aided reconstructive surgery. For example, medical world would be much more advanced than it is today. And the maxillofacial surgery, or surgery of the jaw, has developed with insights fact that the benefits arise from chance merely serves to highlight the from both plastic surgeons and oral surgeons. It’s impossible to say in greed that constitutes the essential nature of cosmetic surgery: those some areas who contributed the greatest advances, the cosmetic or the benefits ought to be all of medicine’s aim, not an accident resulting from mainstream. To shut down cosmetic surgery would be to cut off a it. Certainly people make money and careers in normal medicine, but valuable outlet for research and discovery. The market can sometimes they are giving treatments that aim to make people well, not look create great benefits: people work hard in pursuit of profits and often their different. work can help us all. Plenty of people make a good living from normal medicine and they are not criticised, the same should be true for privately provided medicine: there’s nothing wrong with turning a profit. There’s a fair debate to be had here about what we all know we mean How do you define cosmetic surgery? Much of the “cosmetic” work done when we talk about cosmetic surgery. Balloon-breasted Barbie-doll greatly improves not just appearance, but quality of life. Operation Smile, models and self-indulgent collagen boosters are the issue, and trying to which fixes oral and facial deformities found in poor children across the squirm out of defending them by pointing to sad children is pretty weak. world, is doing “cosmetic surgery.” Sure you can survive with a hare lip or Because the answer is obvious - hare lip correction is legitimate surgery. a cleft palate. But your quality of life – your self esteem, employability, Collagen injection to hide aging is not. acceptance in a traditional society, etc – is much better without one. Following this principle, breast reduction or augmentation or the removal of acne scars can be just as important. If the opposition is right and plastic surgery is desirable, then such You can spend your money how you like. Why shouldn’t people be surgery is unfair. Only those that can pay for it get it. So if it has the allowed to make the personal choice to change their appearance with advantages the opposition claims, the rich will look good, and the poor their own cash? Better that than ask others to contribute through the will not. state. Furthermore, the appearance division the proposition seeks to suggest between rich and poor is much more dependent on quality of diet. Diet is a universal factor that affects complexion, height, etc, while cosmetic surgery is a relatively insignificant factor in statistical terms and one that only affects the particular thing on which surgery is conducted. In fact, often, people look appalling after plastic surgery. Celebrities with That might be true. Let people choose what happens to their bodies for “trout pout” overblown lips, or absurd, balloon-like breasts, are only the themselves. For every horror story, there are hundreds of people who are most well known examples. happier with their appearance after surgery – whether you prefer their new appearance or not. Motions This House would not improve on nature This House believes that cosmetic surgery is a plot against women This House would restrict the availability of cosmetic surgery That cosmetic surgery should be banned Useful Sites Time article on Cosmetic surgery in Asia Awful plastic Surgery online Wikipedia on plastic surgery Operation Smile online Online review of Elizabeth Haiken’s Venus Envy, that sets out the history of cosmetic surgery Information about cosmetic surgery from the UK’s Department of Health (comprehensive – includes A-Z list of procedures and information on each, information about qualifications for surgeons etc) Useful Books Media and Body Image: If Looks Could Kill by Barrie Gunter Reshaping the Female Body: Dilemma of Cosmetic Surgery by Kathy Davis Venus Envy: A History of Cosmetic Surgery by Elizabeth Haiken The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf Making the Body Beautiful: A Cultural History of Aesthetic Surgery by Sander L. Gilman Flesh Wounds: The Culture of Cosmetic Surgery by Virginia L. Blum Themes Health Home Privacy Statement Contact Us Terms and Conditions IDEA Inc. and the Dutch registered IDEA are separate organizations that operate independently yet cooperate informally with each other. This website, a joint presentation, is intended to promote both organizations' interests while maintaining their respective independence. Content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative License. Queries: firstname.lastname@example.org.