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Deciding when to turn away cosmetic surgery patients comes with experience

Article-Deciding when to turn away cosmetic surgery patients comes with experience

Key iconKey Points

  • Time, experience helps cosmetic surgeons determine whether a prospective patient should be declined
  • Physicians should try to speak to patients in cordial, candid conversations
  • Determine patient's motivation for procedure

Dr. McMenamin
Elective cosmetic procedures have become a mainstay in modern medicine. Because many patients can get "hooked" on cosmetic procedures, physicians often walk a very fine line when deciding if and when to turn potential cosmetic patients away.

Deciding when to perform elective cosmetic procedures can be morally and ethically challenging, as different patients desire cosmetic procedures for varying reasons. The right reasons for elective cosmetic surgery can be open to interpretation and oftentimes are fueled by societal pressures and the zeitgeist of different cultures.

"Sometimes it's a tough call because there is a component of cosmetic surgery that is basically scratching the itch. To some degree, what we are really doing is psycho-surgery," says Patrick McMenamin, M.D., immediate past-president of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery who is based in Sacramento, Calif.

WHAT LIES BENEATH Many cosmetic surgery patients appear completely adjusted and happy. What lies beneath the surface, however, may be another story. According to Dr. McMenamin, people who are genuinely happy are generally not interested in elective cosmetic procedures. Those who seek out a cosmetic physician typically have some psychological motivation that moves them to do something about their appearance.

Dr. Niamtu
"As medical professionals, we are morally and ethically obligated to help our patients in a rational and thoughtful way to do what would truly be best for them without being paternalistic," Dr. McMenamin says.

Deciding when cosmetic surgery is appropriate for a patient can be difficult, as each patient has his or her own personal views of aesthetics, regardless of what the driving forces behind their opinions might be. Similarly, physicians have their own personal views of aesthetics, and these views can be influenced by societal views and the culture in which they live, as well.

"One shouldn't dictate to a patient what size breasts are good for them or how thick their lips should be, as each patient lives in their own world, which is governed at least in part by their own rules and aesthetic vision," Dr. McMenamin says.

Most surgeons would agree it's not their job to decide how people should look, because not all cultures have the same perspectives on what is normal or beautiful. Nevertheless, knowing when to turn away a patient who may desire cosmetic surgery for the wrong reasons is crucial.

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