Bioethics Blogs

From botox to face lifts – should professionals say yes?

This blog post was written following the second Beauty Demands workshop. The third workshop will take place 14-15 October in Birmingham and will focus on the globalisation of beauty. The deadline for abstracts is 16 July at 4pm. This is the second of two blog posts.

As the demand for cosmetic procedures continues, what are the responsibilities of health professionals and scientists in developing, providing and actively promoting invasive non-reconstructive procedures that aim to enhance or ‘normalise’ appearance?

This was one of the topics we explored at the second workshop of the AHRC-funded Beauty Demands project on ‘Professionals, practitioners and beauty norms’ bringing together academic experts on body image and fashion, psychologists, philosophers, lawyers, surgeons and GPs to debate the role of professionals in responding to the changing requirements of ‘beauty’ (see my first blog, Body image, beauty myths and cosmetic procedures).

While there are powerful arguments in support of the claim that what people (certainly adults) choose to do with respect to their own appearance is nobody else’s business, there is also a strong public interest in how those working in the health sector exercise their professional responsibilities, given the trust-based nature of the field in which they work.

By developing new procedures, by actively advertising and marketing them on a consumer basis, and then offering them in a medical or quasi-medical environment, professionals take on an active role in encouraging the use of invasive procedures for cosmetic purposes. The fact that they are trusted as health professionals – think of the trust-based assumptions associated with the terminology of a ‘medi-spa’ – creates further dilemmas.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.