The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry Cosmetic surgery as a relatively quick, though not often painless, way to improve personal image has become more and more common, especially in the US. Higher living standards and rapid development of medical technologies have made these operations more accessible and affordable to more people. The increasing popularity and appeals of successful results, however, mask a grossly under-regulated industry still fraught with problems such as incompetent doctors, unsafe and unsanitary operating conditions, and high risk of serious complications.
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Defined as “surgery chosen primarily for aesthetic reasons or in hopes that one will become more socially acceptable” (Goering 21), this form of surgery is deemed elective and not often perceived with the same seriousness and consideration as other surgical procedures. Many do not regard cosmetic surgery, i. e. plastic surgery, as being “real” surgery and the common misconception that “it is quick and easy” (Toledano 1) further trivializes implementations of effective cosmetic surgery standards by many state legislatures.
This oversight (that is, lack of legislative oversight) can produce tragic consequences for patients since cosmetic procedures may also involve the same complications as other surgeries such as “bleeding, healing, infections, and scarring” (Kohl 2). In one incident, a San Francisco woman, Myra Ruskin, died after she underwent a facelift and laser resurfacing performed by an unqualified doctor (Wynn 1). Unfortunately, similar tragedies during these elective procedures are not uncommon.
In fact, the death rate from cosmetic surgery is actually higher than any other branch of surgery (“Beauty Under the Knife” 1). The main contributor to this problem is the fact that cosmetic surgery remains “relatively unregulated” (Toledano 1). Currently, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Mississippi, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Texas are the only states having guidelines that offer adequate protection for patients whereas the other forty-one states still lack similar regulations (Sutton, “Patient Safety Updated” 21).
The legislatures of these remaining states need to press for inclusion of cosmetic surgery under regulatory control because currently there is no legal protection for patients in these states from being operated on by unqualified surgeons in unregulated facilities that often do not carry malpractice insurance. With the enormous number of 1,917,139 cosmetic patients spending a total of $6,963,341,343 in 2001 alone (“2001 Cosmetic Surgery Trends”), many doctors, even those not specialized in cosmetic surgery, cannot resist the temptation to jump on the fast-cash bandwagon.
Because there is no requirement for a physician to have specialized postgraduate education and training in cosmetic surgery to perform cosmetic procedures, even “doctors who are trained as dermatologists are performing plastic surgery” (Senate Committee on Investigations, Taxation, and Government Operations 2). This dreadful reality reflects the public’s lack of concern with safety standards in the beauty industry. If other fields of surgery lack the same degree of restrictions, there would be widespread outrage.
A certified general surgeon is required to complete two additional years of training in children’s surgery in order to practice as a pediatric surgeon (“What is a Pediatric Surgeon? ”) – yet doctors who are “poorly trained, incompetent, or practicing outside their specialties” (Lapetina) are legally allowed to perform cosmetic surgery. Dr. Wells, a qualified cosmetic surgeon, expresses his concerns: “even in the hands of well-trained doctors, inappropriate events can occur.
So if we put these kinds of events in the hands of physicians who have less training, what risk are we putting the public at? ” (qtd. in Kohl 2). Sometimes surgeries are performed after the doctor has only attended a weekend seminar on the procedure or watching a video (Lapetina and Armstrong 4). Undoubtedly, patients’ safety is severely compromised when they are placed in the hands of physicians without satisfactory training.