Ethics think tank calls for ban on non-surgical procedures for under-18s
There are major points of ethical concern around the practice and promotion of cosmetic procedures, says a report from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.
The report, titled Cosmetic Procedures: Ethical Issues, makes a series of recommendations to reform the ways in which cosmetic procedures are marketed and carried out in the UK, with an emphasis on non-surgical procedures such as injectables and fat freezing treatments.
Free cosmetic surgery game apps present a particular concern for the Council, who is worried about the effects on children who could be influenced to think of cosmetic surgery as frivolous and fun, especially on top of social media and popular culture messages that perpetuate body image ideals.
The report recommends social media platforms carry out independent research to understand how the online world contributes to “appearance anxiety” in children and put appropriate measures in place to dull down its impact.
“We’ve been shocked by some of the evidence we’ve seen, including makeover apps and cosmetic surgery ‘games’ that target girls as young as nine. There is a daily bombardment from advertising and through social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat that relentlessly promote unrealistic and often discriminatory messages on how people, especially girls and women, ‘should’ look,” said Jeanette Edwards, professor of social anthropology from the University of Manchester, who chaired the inquiry.
The council called for a ban on non-surgical procedures for under 18s unless for medical reasons corroborated by a health specialist such as GP or psychologist.
It also urged the Department of Health to make all dermal fillers ‘prescription-only’ – like botulinum toxin – in order to place formal limits on who can inject them, as well as implement legal quality and safety approval measures on the product itself.
Edwards commented: “Under 18s should not be able to just walk in off the street, and have a cosmetic procedure. There are legal age limits for having tattoos or using sunbeds. Invasive cosmetic procedures should be regulated in a similar way.”
Mark Henley, a plastic surgeon and member of the Council’s inquiry group, added: “We need to overturn the belief that fillers are risk-free. I’ve seen serious and long-term injuries from fillers in my clinic. Even fillers injected properly can cause lumps (granulomas) that have to be surgically removed. They have even been known to cause blindness and loss of facial soft tissues in rare cases.”