Extreme Plastic Surgery: Who Decides What’s Ethical?

Bizarre, NakedLaw, Rights

Plastic surgery is more popular than ever before, with over 11 million cosmetic procedures performed last year alone — 1.8 million of which were surgical. Only a handful of these procedures are noteworthy, but they bring up questions about medical malpractice and the ethics surrounding extreme surgery.

Extreme Plastic Surgery: What Were They Thinking?

Some instances seem designed to make us say, “What were they thinking?” about both the patient and their doctor. The poster child for plastic surgery gone bad, Jocelyn Wildenstein (also known as “Catwoman”), has reportedly spent over $4 million on surgeries to attain a more feline, less human, look. In 2010, Heidi Montag famously had 10 procedures in one 10-hour session. Her surgeon, Dr. Frank Ryan, defended the decision to do all 10 at once, saying each procedure was “small.” Even if the procedures were ultimately safe, these instances arguably hover between unethical practices and simple bad taste.

Also-extreme is the disturbing trend of undergoing cosmetic surgery to look like a celebrity — MTV even had an entire series about it. The Huffington Post reports more examples of the trend: Toby Sheldon spent five years and approximately $100,000 to turn himself into his idol, Justin Bieber; twins Mike and Matt Schlepp went under the knife to become Brad Pitt-dopplegangers; Ashley Horn had five procedures to look more like her half sister Lindsay Lohan; and Brit Carolyn Anderson survived burst breast implants in an effort to become a Baywatch-era Pamela Anderson. Not all of the celebrities being imitated are even real – Justin Jedlica wants to look like Ken, and Valeria Lukyanova wants to look like Barbie.

What Doctors Must Do Before Surgery

For some people, cosmetic surgery is a way to improve their self-esteem and quality of life. But what about doctors who perform surgery on patients who seem to have questionable motives, or even an inability to make a sound medical decision? Why aren’t doctors restricted from operating in such cases?

The answer: there simply aren’t regulations in place to stop questionable surgeries from occurring. Restrictions on plastic surgery procedures are not practice-wide but instead rest in the hands of individual hospitals and physicians. Some hospitals forbid surgeries lasting longer than a certain number of hours, and some physicians choose to conduct mental health evaluations before proceeding with cosmetic surgery — though that is not required. For physicians who are more interested in money than in the outcome or the patient’s mental health, such screenings are considered superfluous.

Furthermore, any doctor with an M.D. can perform plastic surgery. Many doctors calling themselves plastic surgeons are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and have several years of training and experience, but not all are. Non-board-certified doctors may be more likely to do surgeries that are questionable or that other surgeons have turned down for ethical reasons.

What Patients Must Do Before Surgery

Legally, the only thing a patient must do before surgery is sign a consent form. (Parents can give parental consent for minors.) The physician will also require proof of ability to pay before proceeding. Other than that, you’re on your own. That’s why it’s important to do your research if you’re considering a procedure, and have a lawyer review the consent form if you’re unsure about any details. Follow the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery’s pre-surgery advice to ensure the best possible outcome.