Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Breast Enlargement and Mind Contraction

All the fuss about faulty breast implants has prompted me to reflect on the similarities of this issue with the abortion debate.

Clearly the scale of seriousness is different, but there are parallels.

First, I should say that I am not talking here about reconstructive surgery, but cosmetic surgery.

When a doctor agrees to undertake cosmetic surgery for trivial reasons he or she is, in my view, doing something similar to an abortionist, in this way.  He is treating social and psychological problems as though a physical solution is the right answer.

Thus he is not only colluding with the superficial diagnosis of the patient ('If only I had bigger breasts, then I'd be happy/confident/loved...') but also contributing both to her not addressing the underlying issues, and also to others feeling under greater pressure to conform to undesirable social norms (that all women should aspire to look like pin-up girls).


Part-time Pilgrim said...

I am certainly with you in condemning surgeons who carry out cosmetic operations for trivial reasons but I am not sure about your insistence that there is a distinction between “physical” and “social and psychological” problems and solutions. I would suggest that physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing are all interrelated. I would further suggest that this is a Catholic understanding of humanity. We believe in the incarnation, we hold a sacramental faith and believe in the resurrection of the body all of which point to a unity between body and soul as being fundamental to human nature. In fact you implicitly accept this when you say “I should say that I am not talking here about reconstructive surgery, but cosmetic surgery.”
The problem with trivial cosmetic surgery is not that it uses a physical rather than psychological solution but that it uses the wrong solution.
As for the effects outlined in the last paragraph – spot on.

Ben Trovato said...

P-t P

Thanks - you make a valid point about the inter-relationship between the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of our wellbeing (indeed I have commented on this recently in a post on stress), and I stand corrected.

However, I do think that there is something in a rush to physical solutions for what are, let us say primarily if not exclusively, mental, spiritual (or come to that social) problems that is bad medicine and does harm beyond the individual patient who is subject to it.