Observations Ethics Man

The harms of medicoplasty

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a1983 (Published 07 October 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a1983
  1. Daniel K Sokol, lecturer in medical ethics and law, St George’s, University of London
  1. daniel.sokol{at}talk21.com

    The 16th century French author and physician Rabelais was obsessed with vaginas. In one of his stories an old lady drives the devil away by showing him her vagina.1 Today the devil might recommend she go to the nearest aesthetic surgeon for vaginal rejuvenation. A touch off the labia (labioplasty), a bit of tightening here (vaginoplasty), and voilà: a designer vagina.

    The number of cosmetic genital operations is seemingly on the rise.2 3 4 The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, in its section on genital surgery, notes: “With a growing acceptance of surgery designed to alter appearance, and the increasing availability of explicit images of naked women, a number of women are requesting surgery to alter their intimate appearance, feeling that they compare unfavourably.”5

    Here is my paternalistic view: medical professionals, whether working in the private or public sector, should not succumb to these requests. Although it would be hard to argue that anyone seeking aesthetic genital surgery is unable to make an informed decision, it is plausible to argue that patients’ autonomy is often …

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