Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Medicine and the Media

Cosmetic surgery meets reality TV: passing judgment on The Surjury

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 12 September 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5478
  1. Alison Shepherd, freelance journalist, Kent
  1. ashepherd{at}

Where is the ethical line between educating the public and exploiting vulnerable patients, asks Alison Shepherd

Early next year Channel 4 is set to broadcast a new reality show: in The Surjury contestants seeking a free cosmetic procedure will consult surgeons and put their case to a jury, who will decide who can get “life-changing surgery.”

The premise outraged MPs on the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. In May it launched an inquiry into television companies’ duty of care to reality show participants after the suicides of contestants in ITV’s Love Island and Jeremy Kyle Show.1 The MPs asked Channel 4 executives, “How concerned are you that you are in fact becoming tawdry, voyeuristic, titillating, and essentially exploitative?”

Doctors are certainly concerned that a decision about a surgical intervention, which should be made between a doctor and patient, is being put to a jury of family, friends, and strangers who have undergone similar procedures.

Trivialising surgery

“This concept of a completely arbitrary …

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