With the rising popularity of plastic surgery, it was only a matter of time before it was given away as a prize. In some ways, the trend started with reality television programs like The Swan and Extreme Makeover. In both programs, the programs paid for for plastic surgery. While the procedure itself is not the prize, the message sent to millions of men and women desiring some cosmetic enhancement was that if you did all the right things and got lucky, you could be operated upon by world-famous surgeons for free.
But some businesses just went too far. The Element Nightclub in Okanagan Valley city recently offered a breast augmentation procedure as a prize in its Makeover competition. Tiffany Freisen won the competition despite protests from plastic surgeons and some church groups. Another bar, the Party Block in Ocean City, Maryland, recently wanted to give away $5,000 towards plastic surgery in a contest at the bar. After protests from several groups, it did not change much. The award was still $5,000 but it came in form of a check. There was no obligation to use it for surgery, but the winner, Beth Thompson from Baltimore, plans to have liposuction and her teeth straightened according to Ylan Q. Mui, Washington Post Staff Writer.
The AAPS does not have clear guidelines on this issue but their peers in the UK are warning that companies offering plastic surgery as a prize are violating a well-recognised code of ethics of good medical practice. According to Adam Searle, President of the BAAPS, “The giving of a surgical procedure as a prize is an unbelievable, dangerous and highly unethical practice. The decision to perform any surgical procedure must be based on common sense, case selection, good surgical decision making and patient safety. The offer of a cosmetic surgery procedure as a prize is an awful manifestation of the trivialisation of medical care in general, and aesthetic surgery in particular. Any patient making irreversible decisions in circumstances of hype, excitement and emotion, are putting themselves at very great risk. Any normal patient-doctor relationship is completely abandoned in any such framework of medical care. This is a practice I unreservedly and utterly condemn.”
The BAAPS have grappled with similar issues in the past when warning the public about makeover contests on reality television shows, plastic surgery loyalty card schemes and gift vouchers. According to the Association, patients need to be objectively considered for a cosmetic procedure, rather than being coerced or incentivized into having a treatment they happened to ‘win’ and that plastic surgery is a commodity that can be purchased mindlessly.
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3 Things you should do
- Have surgery only when you absolutely need it. Surgery has its risks too.
- Pay for your own surgery. This also means that to the extent possible, do not put it on your credit card. It is, however, fine to finance your surgery provided you do not pay interest at all or it is something small.
- Be careful competing for such contests. Not winning can be depressing.