MyFreeImplants (MFI) is a website that provides an alternative to traditional cosmetic surgery financing methods based on the social networking model. Members of the website fall into two groups: models and benefactors. Models are the women of the community seeking financing for breast augmentations. Benefactors are the people of the community (who are 95% male) who are willing to donate money to help them achieve their goal.
MFI acts as a ‘boob-bank’ and holds all funds in a trust account on behalf of the models. Women sign up to the website, post a set of photos and a 'beg' bio explaining why they desperately need cosmetic enhancement. The women of MFI never get direct access to any money that is raised. Once they have raised sufficient funds to cover the cost of the surgery, MFI pays the doctor directly for the procedure. The models then provide before and after photos to the benefactors who helped contribute towards her goal.
UK cosmetic surgeons have called the website unsafe and degrading. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) say that it is worrying and potentially dangerous. Once women have uploaded their personal details, which should include a list of their physical attributes, such as hair and eye colour, the website says women can have a one-on-one chat online with benefactors and sell them "personal items or gifts and more...".
To the innocent, this site sounds like a gift but, if consumerism has taught us anything, it is that there is no such thing as a free lunch – or a “zero cost alternative to cosmetic surgery loans” for breast implants. Even the most rudimentary investigation of the site reveals a much more sordid reality. Suzie Godson, a columnist at The Times, has researched the website and published her findings which are frightening:
Consultant plastic surgeon and BAAPS President Douglas McGeorge said: "This is a wholly inappropriate way to proceed with what should be a serious decision made by a fully informed patient. The site's promise that there are 'no right or wrong' cases is frightening - clearly there is no proper medical assessment of candidates, which at best could lead to disappointment, at worst, to someone's health being endangered."
Elise Bevan, a solicitor in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches said: "This website has been operating since 2005 and MFI's founders claim that about 1,100 women have received implants through the website. This is really quite shocking. The invitation for women to post suggestive photos, sell personal items and chat with strangers over the internet in exchange for a breast augmentation is just degrading. Every woman on MFI is responsible for her own actions and choices but, under pressure to receive funding or donations, it’s very possible that some MFI women could let their breast implant goals and decisions be changed or influenced for the wrong reasons.
“For women who do receive free breast augmentation surgery but are personally dissatisfied with the results afterward, they must wait a period of nine months before creating a new MFI account and earning money towards another surgery. If women have subsequent revision surgeries after that, they must wait one year before starting a new account. If surgery results were poor due to complications or asymmetry, women must provide documentation from a surgeon stating revision surgery is required to open a new MFI account.
“The website’s breezy tone masks a disturbing truth: breast augmentation is one of the riskiest things a woman can do to her body. A sizable percentage of breast augmentation patients experience chronic breast pain, nerve damage, and infection. All women should consider the risks and benefits of such surgery carefully and any decision should be well informed.”