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Plastic Surgery: Quality of Life and Vanity

While surgical reconstruction to restore proper form and function to the body is widely accepted in the medical community, some physicians struggle to find empathy for patients undergoing elective plastic surgery procedures. Many physicians equated cosmetic surgery with more innocuous efforts to improve appearance, and noted that these efforts can increase quality of life – a goal that is similar to many other medical procedures, while others grappled with the line separating what constitutes improvement to quality of life and vanity.

“If a cosmetic procedure can be done once and left at that for life (e.g. a nose job) it may be worth considering and I have in fact seen some people who had chronic self esteem issues due to their perceived nose imperfections and were ‘cured” of the issue.’” – Psychiatry

“The problem is not the plastic surgery – it is the unhealthy motivation.” – Radiology

“In my ideal world, everyone would grow up with enough love and support from the people around them to be content with the body they were given. We are nowhere near that place. And unless we as a race can learn to better put our prejudices in check, it is to the benefit of every non-perfect person to consider plastic surgery, as evidenced by the studies showing attractive people make more money. My shortfall of empathy may be a matter of beauty privilege, so I try to foster whatever bit of empathy I can.” – Internal Medicine

“People get braces on their teeth—simply to look better. They wear contact lenses, some simply to ‘look better than glasses,’ they get their hair dyed, and permed, and cut in various styles. They buy new clothes and new makeup. Most people don’t seem to have a problem with that, but when it comes to plastic surgery, suddenly, there is a disconnect.” – Anesthesiology

“I probably run into many people who have had surgeries and I don’t make it my business. I am talking, after all, about people who are in my office because of unhappiness of some sort and have asked for my feedback. I’m expected to have been asked to, by virtue of their being in my office-give honest feedback about all kinds of life solutions that seem problematic to me.” – Psychiatry

Plastic surgeons had a unique perspective on this conversation, and tended to emphasize the importance of confidence and internal contentment, arguing that an improvement to quality of life always made procedures worthwhile:

“As a plastic surgeon who would never think of having cosmetic surgery and yet works tirelessly to have a physique that people notice approvingly the point is that everyone approaches the world differently and seeks approval and acceptance in their own way. Some are blatant and others subtle. In all cases nobody asked for your approval.” – Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

 “Just because YOU don’t think a specific cosmetic surgery is reasonable to do, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect that person in a more personal and significant way. And if we have the means to make people feel better about themselves and be more confident, why not? Quality of life IS AN IMPORTANT MEASURE.” – Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

“I try to treat each patient as a family member, to only discuss concerns that are raised by the patient and to be forthright about risks/benefits/reasonable results. While many consider this work vanity, it is no different than Lasik surgery, orthodontics, or even hair coloring. If the benefit of a treatment outweighs the risk and the patient is not put into a financial hardship (all fees are discussed before any treatment is performed), then as an adult, they can make an informed decision to proceed.” – Otolaryngology

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