Ethics in Plastic Surgery

Ethical Principles for Plastic Surgeons

A silicone breast implant.
A silicone breast implant. Westend61/Getty Images

Ethical Principles in Plastic Surgery

Aesthetic plastic surgery has become extremely popular. It could be due to an increase in demand by consumers. Some view aesthetic plastic surgery as a solution for issues in their lives. It doesn't help that media attention focuses on youthful appearance and sexually desirable physical attributes.

The abuse of ethical principles in plastic surgery has become more noticeable, especially where the mental and emotional state of the patient is a concern.

At what point does a surgeon determine when a patient is displaying signs of addiction to plastic surgery? How does a surgeon respond to a patient who displays evidence of body dysmorphic disorder? Body dysmorphic disorder is a condition in which a patient perceives flaws that do not exist, and wants them corrected.

Ethics dictate that the surgeon would not perform a procedure without the written consent of the patient. Nor would the surgeon perform surgery on a minor without the consent of their legal guardian. According to the Principles of Biomedical Ethics, published by Beauchamp and Childress in 1979, there are four principles that serve as the ethical basis of a contemporary medical practice. They are:

Respect for Human Dignity

As long as they have the necessary information, competent adults have the right to decide whether or not they will undergo a surgical procedure. They need to be provided with the risks of the procedure and if there are alternative options to surgery.

Aesthetic plastic surgeons need to ensure that the patients' expectations of the outcome of the procedure are realistic.

Compassionate Care

Surgeons need to act in the best interests of the patient. Patients, who experience pain, discomfort and are socially ostracized because they are self-conscious about their appearance benefit from aesthetic plastic surgery.

Patients with body dysmorphic disorder have become prevalent and for them plastic surgery has become an addiction that needs to be addressed.

Choosing Whom to Serve

Surgeons need to do no harm by working against the best interests of the patient. If the aesthetic plastic surgeon feels that the procedure is not in the patient's best interests, they have the right to decline performing the procedure. If a patient has serious health issues that may increase the risk of complications with surgery, the surgeon needs to make the assessment as to whether the surgery should proceed.

Available Healthcare

Healthcare should be available to anyone who needs it, yet this is not always true. With limited resources, aesthetic plastic surgery is not always available.

Adherence to these principles, which have been followed by physicians, provides the ethical foundation for a surgical practice.

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