The word ‘addiction’ is associated by most people with drugs and/or alcohol dependencies but addictions can manifest themselves in other ways. In a recent news article, Geordie Shore actress Chloe Ferry claimed to be ‘addicted’ to plastic surgery. This was reported in an upbeat and somewhat trivial light but there is a very serious underlying question as to whether cosmetic surgery addiction is a growing problem that needs addressing.
A mother of five in Ohio was reported as having spent half a million dollars on procedures to make her perfectly resemble her favourite Barbie doll. Her procedures were said to have included three breast augmentations, a breast lift, lip fillers, Botox, veneers, semi-permanent make-up, hair dye, nail extensions and daily visits to a tanning salon.
Cosmetic surgery addiction falls into the category known as behavioural or process addictions. In a behavioural addiction, an individual is addicted to a specific behaviour despite apparent negative consequences. Unlike drug addicts who suffer from a physical chemical addiction, plastic surgery addicts experience mental obsession to alter their bodies and faces. People who undergo excessive surgeries may end up with permanent damage to their muscle tissue and skin, including excessive scarring.
There are no laws denying people from receiving consecutive cosmetic surgeries. If the patient can pay for the surgery most doctors will perform the surgery. There are few regulations on the amount of procedures a person can have, so addicts can be operated on to their satisfaction. Surgeons may, in some cases, be obligated to make enquiries into a patient’s psychiatric history and may ask a patient’s GP about this or seek input from a patient’s psychiatrist before proceeding. But the patient’s autonomy must be respected as a basic human right. It is their body and they have the right to decide what is done with it.
The concept of beauty is arguably somewhat skewed in today's society. Social media and the continued prevalence of online articles, blogs and beauty sites leads many people to believe that they will only be beautiful if they have the same features as their favourite celebrity. Plastic surgery addicts may go to extreme lengths to achieve ‘perfection’ without appreciating that perfection does not exist and that they may never be happy with their appearance.
James Corbin, an associate in the Penningtons Manches cosmetic surgery claims team, comments: “Whether you are a doctor performing surgery or a lawyer managing a client’s claim, it is important to be mindful of the individual’s aims and expectations from the outset, and to ensure that these are or were responsibly managed. From the point of view of a claim, irrespective of the amount of surgery a patient has had, the question is always the same - whether on that particular occasion, the surgery was performed negligently, causing injury."