Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Should all advertising of cosmetic surgery be banned? Yes

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 07 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7489
  1. Fazel Fatah, consultant plastic surgeon
  1. 1Westbourne Centre, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 3SJ
  1. ffatah{at}

After the recent breast implant debacle, the Department of Health is reviewing cosmetic procedures in the UK, including advertising to the public. Fazel Fatah says advertising preys on patients’ vulnerability and should be banned, but Sally Taber thinks regulation can give sufficient protection

Advertising prescription drugs to the public is banned in the United Kingdom, but advertising is allowed to promote invasive surgical procedures that may not be clinically necessary and pose risks of harm and complications. Arguably, the criteria for operating on patients who are not physically ill or deformed should be more stringent than those for curing illness or correcting deformities. A minimum requirement should be a complete ban on encouraging and recruiting people to undergo such treatments—and advertising for cosmetic surgery does just that.

The World Health Organization’s definition of health, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” has been argued about by many, but it emphasises the mental wellbeing of the individual.1 2 3 4 Cosmetic surgery is practised to try to improve this aspect of health: it treats symptoms of self consciousness, a state of mind when a self perceived abnormality of body image affects the …

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