Cosmetic surgery for teens and tweens?

Last week, a publicist sent Crabby Old Lady a story idea. Get this: interview a physician and a teenager about cosmetic surgery for “tweens and teens”.

“It's a story that's on the mind of both teenagers and their parents this new years: The fact that more and more sweet 16's and younger,” writes the publicist, “are opting for a visit to the plastic surgeon for nips and tucks as well as everything in between.”

Say what? Nips and tucks for tweens and teens?

The publicist goes on to say that cosmetic surgery in this age group has jumped 100 percent in the past 15 years and helpfully points out that “a week over New Year's or spring break is plenty of time for recovery.”

It gets worse. The physician, who is described as clinical instructor in plastic surgery at a renowned west coast medical school where he is also an attending physician in plastic surgery says, according to the publicist’s email, that “there are cases…where the right procedure can turn a child around from being depressed to self-confident.”

Riiiight. A little surgical intervention will correct all those unruly, adolescent growing pains. And in case the surgery doesn’t lift her depression, why not drop some Paxil in her morning orange juice and give her a list of pro-ana websites to help keep her weight down.

There is, of course, the obligatory and disingenuous disclaimer:

“[The doctor] is quick to point out that in just as many cases physicians wisely tell the parent and the child to wait. ‘I'm very conservative,’ he says. ‘It's best to make certain the motivation is acceptable.’”

Acceptable motivation? For tweens or teens - those alien beings whose moods swing from gloom to giddy and back again before breakfast? Listen to Crabby Old Lady: apart from disfigurement (as in a car accident or fire), there is no acceptable motivation for tween and teen cosmetic surgery.

What can be said of the motivation of a physician, a person who took an oath “to do no harm”, who believes unnecessary surgery to improve a kid’s mood is reasonable? How about this from The New York Times of 30 November [subscription required]:

“…obstetricians, family practitioners and emergency room physicians are gravitating to the beauty business, lured by lucrative cosmetic treatments that require same-day payments because they are not covered by insurance and by a medical practice without bothersome midnight emergency calls.”

Might this doctor’s “acceptable motivation” in promoting teen and tween cosmetic surgery be a new Mercedes Benz? As the baby boomers age into elderhood in the next few years, it won’t be cosmetic surgeons they need and we can’t afford to lose more doctors to this unneeded specialty. But the market is there; it is those who cannot bear the thought of growing old and now it is being expanded to include children.

And don’t get Crabby started on parents who approve and pay for these procedures. Social workers routinely remove children from homes deemed not clean enough, but do they care when parents allow a physician to cut up a 13-year-old’s face or breasts?

Crabby Old Lady is dismayed and aghast and wonders if there is anything to be done to stop this. Or is Crabby just a crazy old woman who doesn’t get it?

* Contributing Editor Ronni Bennett also blogs at Time Goes By - What it’s really like to get older.,

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