This page originally created by Danni V. (2020-21)
Plastic surgery has become normalized around the world, and the number of people using this treatment has increased. It has two main subdivisions: reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery. Reconstructive surgery is used for functional purposes and typically considered essential, whereas cosmetic surgery is used to enhance one’s appearance and is optional. The former is performed to help people either born with defects or those who received them after a traumatic incident. The latter, however, can be used on almost anyone, regardless of whether or not they have abnormalities. These treatments can be used on any part of the body, and are not limited to simply one’s face. Though, ethical considerations regarding plastic surgeries, in particular cosmetic surgeries, must be taken into account.
Anytime someone goes under the knife, there are potential health risks. In some cases, mainly for reconstructive surgery, not receiving it is a greater danger to one’s health. For instance, it can be used to assist in cancer treatment by removing tumors on the skin. Nevertheless, most cosmetic surgeries are inessential and medically unnecessary. This means that it does not benefit the patient’s health, and is actually hazardous. While plastic surgeons will refuse a patient and not perform the surgery if they have pre-existing health problems, more can result after it, both physical and mental. During the recovery process and even after, new health issues may appear, be it from a failed operation or side effects. Some of the most common physical ones include infections, blood clots, and nerve damage. If these happen to occur, the surgery simply becomes harmful, though it could have been avoided since it was a superfluous one.
Additionally, it can be detrimental to one’s mental health. Considering cosmetic surgery is not necessary for one’s bodily health, it is more for their self confidence. Social media has exposed society to unrealistic beauty standards as it pressures people to fit a mould and “fix” their problems. Receiving cosmetic surgery can cause a decline in one’s mental health as they may constantly criticize themself, think about what others may say behind their back, and sometimes lead to mental conditions, one being Body Dysmorphic Disorder (Kita, n.d.). Individuals with this condition are constantly worrying about their appearance, and oftentimes about unnoticeable imperfections (Bjornsson et al., 2010). It stops being about their confidence and becomes something attributed to their self worth; a tool used to please others. Some patients develop an obsession to strive towards unrealistic and unachievable goals. Advertising cosmetic surgery not only encourages this, but also supports the idea that a particular look is superior to another. Beauty standards differ around the world and what may be considered the standard in one place, may not be in another. This sometimes leads to the descrimination and rejection of different communities’ races among other things. For instance, some existing surgeries change the shape of one’s eyes or skin colour.
Moreover, a patient’s consent is crucial. The plastic surgeon has an obligation to properly inform and guide them throughout the processes. Meanwhile, they also have financial responsibility (Teven 2018). A trust must be built between them and the doctor will assist them through ways such as recommending procedures. While they must inform the patient of what would be best for them in terms of outcome and health, they must also consider the availability. Not all plastic surgeries are affordable for everyone, so the options may be limited. This influences their consent as they no longer have complete control over which operations they could undergo due to financial problems. This may also affect the quality and outcome, as the more accessible treatments may not benefit them as much as the ones outside of their budget.
Plastic surgery, especially cosmetic surgery, is a common technology and one must keep in mind that, while it is a form of self expression and everyone is entitled to their own opinions and choices, it does have many ethical issues that must be taken into consideration.
A Point of View: Does cosmetic surgery really make people feel better about their bodies? (2016, January 22). Retrieved December 11, 2020, from
Barone, M., Cogliandro, A., & Persichetti, P. (2017, January). Ethics and Plastic Surgery/What is Plastic Surgery? Retrieved December 11, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5300934/
Bjornsson, A. S., Didie, E. R., & Phillips, K. A. (2010). Body dysmorphic disorder. Retrieved December 14, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181960/
Kita, N. (n.d.). Patients Undergoing Plastic Surgery Should Research Their Options. Retrieved December 11, 2020, from https://www.verywellhealth.com/risks-rewards-of-plastic-surgery-2710195
Teven, C. M., & Grant, S. B. (2018, April 01). Plastic Surgery's Contributions to Surgical Ethics. Retrieved December 11, 2020, from https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/plastic-surgerys-contributions-surgical-ethics/2018-04