Winning a Plastic Surgery Contest Isn’t What It’s Cut Out to Be – Here’s Why:
What should beauty pageants, sweepstakes and contests have to do with plastic surgery? Lately, I have seen a disturbing uptick in plastic surgery being offered as a “prize” for participating.
More and more frequently, plastic surgery is being equated to commodities like cars, all-expenses-paid vacations and cash prizes. Plastic surgery, like any other medical procedure, should never be taken lightly nor commoditized, let alone offered as a “prize.” Contests of this nature can put patients at great risk of making an irreversible decision to undergo plastic surgery based on the hype, emotions and excitement involved with having won something - definitely not the basis for a decision as serious as surgery, particularly as all surgical procedures involve risk.
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) code of ethics does not allow its members to participate in raffles or contests where the prize is an invasive surgical procedure. Even if the procedure is nonsurgical, the plastic surgeon must go through the process of “informed consent” where the patient knows in advance exactly what they are getting into and must sign the informed consent document to ensure that they understand it. Even with this precaution, it’s the obligation of a plastic surgeon to properly evaluate a patient before recommending surgical or nonsurgical treatments.
A recent article published in the Latin Post, describes the tragic death of an Ecuadorian beauty queen who died during a plastic surgery procedure she received as a prize from a competition. The young woman who “won” the free liposuction procedure did not need it, nor is it likely that she would have ever sought consultation for this had she not won the contest.
According to the article, she felt coerced into proceeding with a surgical procedure she did not want because of the enticement of receiving something of value for free. Further, the surgeon would not allow her to transfer the surgery to another prospective patient who might have been a proper candidate because he wanted to be able to say he was partly responsible for her success as a beauty contestant to promote himself. This is completely unethical!
The Aesthetic Society places the highest importance on patient safety. Accordingly, an ASAPS member’s primary responsibility is to promote the aesthetic goals of patients only in practice settings that promote the highest standards of patient safety. If a patient isn’t a good candidate for a particular procedure, a physician is obliged to hold off on performing the procedure and in some cases, offer alternative treatment approaches based on the patient’s needs.
Ultimately, winning a plastic surgery procedure as a prize takes away the opportunity for a patient and plastic surgeon to develop an appropriate relationship to enable a patient to achieve her aesthetic goal(s). Patients need to objectively weigh the pros and cons of a cosmetic procedure rather than being coerced or incentivized into having it because they “won.” It also takes away the opportunity for a patient to conduct research on a procedure they’d like because the prize may have an expiration date. Often, a prize winning patient doesn’t have the option of considering other board-certified plastic surgeons who may have greater expertise in performing the surgical procedure under consideration because the prize in most cases is limited to the physician affiliated with the contest/beauty pageant.
Patients are simply not as protected as they must be by any ethical standards. By accepting a plastic surgery ‘prize’ a winner agrees to hold sponsors, prize suppliers etc. harmless for any injury or damage caused or claimed to be caused by participation in the sweepstakes or acceptance or use of a prize.
I strongly recommend against participating in a contest where the ultimate prize is a surgical procedure. If you are considering plastic surgery, please take your time doing considerable research before committing. Here is a planning toolkit to guide you in your research and consultation process. Find a board-certified plastic surgeon in your area using this Find A Surgeon search tool A list of the credentials you should look out for when selecting a plastic surgeon can be found here