Bioethics News

Medicine in India #1 – limb surgery

Limb surgery is becoming an increasingly common procedure  among middle-class Indians looking to improve their future social prospects. The highly controversial operation is being sought out by both local and international clients, and is just one among the many cosmetic surgeries driving India’s US$3 billion medical tourism industry.

Height is considered attractive in India, and can have significant social ramifications for marriage and career prospects.

The procedure, both protracted and complex, involves doctors breaking the legs of patients and applying braces to the limbs that alters the length of the healing bone. According to Dr. Amir Sarin, a cosmetic surgeon based in Delhi, many junior specialists are performing the procedure with little or no prior experience.

“This is one of the most difficult cosmetic surgeries to perform, and people are doing it after just one or two months’ fellowship, following a doctor who is probably experimenting himself. There are no colleges, no proper training, nothing.”

The operation was first pioneered by a Polish man named Gavriil Ilizarov in the 1950s in a small town called Kurgan in Siberia. Ilizarov successfully performed limb surgery on accident victims and people born with one limb shorter than the other. The procedure has now become a procedure for social advancement. 

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