Is plastic surgery an answer to overcoming childhood bullying?
02 August 2012
By Dr Dirk Kremer.
A hot topic from the USA at the moment is the story of Nadia Ilse, a fourteen year old schoolgirl who was offered free plastic surgery after she was bullied for her appearance. She was bullied for her supposedly sticking-out ears, and subjected to countless 'Dumbo' taunts from her peer. She was consequently offered free plastic surgery to assist with the problem of her self-image and low self-esteem. This controversial action has provoked a flurry of opinions.
Nadia had been called names by her schoolmates for years, and since the age of 10, begged her mother to allow her to have her ears pinned back using cosmetic surgery. Nadia’s wish came true with the assistance of the Little Baby Face Foundation. The organization's founder, Dr. Thomas Romo, did work on her ears (otoplasty) but he also suggested that her nose be reduced (rhinoplasty) and her chin be altered (mentoplasty) to achieve better results. Nadia eagerly followed Dr. Romo's recommendation although she hadn’t previously considered the further two procedures, and was absolutely delighted with the results.
But is this the way forward for our children? Many children are born with more unusual facial features such as nose problems, cleft palette, port wine stain birthmarks and many other distinguishing features. Very often they do receive surgery in order to counter difficulties as they go through childhood. It may be a matter of urgency that a cleft palette or potentially dangerous dark birthmark is removed. But where do we draw the line?
How young is too young to have surgery for various types of disfigurement? How do we balance the worth of increased self-esteem against the risks of childhood surgery? What precedent does this set for the individual, and for the field of surgery and children’s health as a whole?
Bullying is a serious matter and the effects may stay with the individual for the rest of their life. We have no right to judge how another person may be feeling, and the steps they take to eradicate their feelings of hopelessness are, similarly, not ours to judge.
I’m glad that Nadia is happy with her surgery. But you should get plastic surgery because you want to, not to bow to pressure from other people. Perhaps the biggest issue here is the importance of instilling a solid sense of values into our children. We all need a sense of proportion, a healthy realisation of our priorities in life. Whether child or adult, we need to understand when we are blessed and when we need to make room for self-improvement- in whichever form this may take.
All of these things are extremely difficult to make sense of at the age of fourteen, and the importance of the parental role in supporting our children is not to be underestimated. There cannot be any substitution for a wholly person-centred approach.
At Harley Street Aesthetics I pride myself on this person-centred approach. Plastic surgery is not about conforming to other people’s ideas, but finding a positive facial balance and symmetry that will give you confidence. I will provide an accurate, balanced and professional opinion on the matter and will only ever give you advice that has your interests as an individual at heart.