Monday, August 28, 2006

Cosmetic surgery ban: More Leftist paternalism from the government of New South Wales

Teenager will be banned from having Botox or collagen injections under sweeping changes aimed at reining in the burgeoning cosmetic surgery industry. The Sunday Telegraph can reveal the State Government is planning to introduce regulations making it more difficult for people under 18 to undergo purely cosmetic procedures.

The changes have been personally driven by Premier Morris Iemma, who was disturbed when Big Brother contestant Krystal Forscutt, 20, promoted her breast-enhancement surgery. His intervention follows instances of teenagers as young as 15 turning up in cosmetic-surgery clinics across Sydney, requesting "Jessica Simpson" noses, breast implants, liposuction and Botox and collagen injections. Under the proposed changes, teenagers will be required to obtain a referral from a GP before seeing a plastic surgeon - and to undergo counselling. Surgeons will require the consent of the teenager's parents and will be forced to offer a minimum one-month cooling-off period before a procedure can be undertaken.

Mr Iemma said serious debate was needed about whether cosmetic surgery was appropriate for teenagers. "As a parent of a young daughter, I have become increasingly concerned that society's obsession with the perfect female body is influencing too many, too young," he said. "We need to send a strong message that young women will be valued for who they are, not what they look like. It used to be the case that the biggest question parents faced was whether to give their children permission to have their ears pierced. "Then it was tattoos. But, increasingly, parents are being asked to fund breast implants or a nose job as birthday or graduation gifts."

No figures on procedures are kept in Australia, but surgeons say the trend is on the rise.According to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, 326,000 cosmetic procedures in 2004 were on teenagers. They included 13,000 ear pinnings (otoplasty), almost 52,000 nose reshapings (rhinoplasty), nearly 4000 breast implants and 3000 liposuction procedures. In NSW, teenagers pay as much as $10,000 for breast implants and from $4000 to $7000 for nose jobs. Surgeons contacted by The Sunday Telegraph were concerned at the trend, which they said had been driven by "airbrushed" teenagers in magazines and reality shows. One surgeon said schoolgirls often arrived at his clinic clutching magazine clippings of celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez. Some teenagers viewed cosmetic surgery as an answer to low self-esteem and schoolyard bullying, he said.

The surgeons, all members of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons, said most reputable doctors would not perform cosmetic surgery, other than otoplasty and rhinoplasty, on teenagers. But they conceded there were "cowboys" in the industry. Sydney plastic surgeon Tim Papadopoulos said the number of teenagers booked in for consultations for cosmetic surgery procedures had risen from one a month five years ago to one a week. Double Bay cosmetic surgeon Kourosh Tavakoli has received e-mails from girls as young as 13 pleading to have surgery. He said more parents today tended to encourage surgery. "I've also had a 15-year-old wanting breast augmentation. I won't do it on anyone still at school, but there are doctors who will."

Former Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons president Norm Olbourne said most of the teenagers who visited his Chatswood clinic wanted breast reductions and nose reshapings. "There are girls wanting breast enlargements, although I've never seen a girl under 18 wanting one who didn't come in holding her mother's hand," Dr Olbourne said.

Krystal Forscutt, who was 19 when she appeared on Big Brother, said she supported Mr Iemma's proposal for counselling under-18s. "I get young girls asking about my boob job. Some of them want me to recommend a doctor," she told The Sunday Telegraph. "But what I say to them is you can't get self-confidence from an operation. It comes from within." Ms Forscutt said she did not want to be seen as a poster girl for plastic surgery, despite having had a breast enhancement at 19. "It's a minute part of who I am. I'm more than just a pair of fake tits," the 20-year-old said. "It's major surgery, and there are side-effects. Because I got mine done so young, this isn't the end of it for me. I'll have three or four more operations as I get older."

People going overseas for cheap plastic surgery have been issued with a warning by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Australian embassies have reported a rise in calls from patients who suffered infections or complications after procedures.


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