Cosmetics or cosmetic surgery? Tummy crunch or tummy tuck? Boost bra or boob job? In the words of Manchester Metropolitan University’s (MMU) Dr Melanie Latham “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This is the title of her meticulously researched lecture focusing on the 2010 scandal in France surrounding PIP breast implants. Even four years after the scandal took place, thousands of women are still affected by the health problems it created. With 90% of surgery cases being women and a lot of media coverage of women getting cosmetic surgery deemed unnecessary by the public on the NHS, the battle between natural beauty and cosmetic perfection is ongoing. Is the falsity replacing the reality?
The subject of cosmetic surgery was the fourth series of lectures included in the Humanities in Public programme (HiP) at MMU. This part of the programme aims to explore the reasons many women have cosmetic surgery. Dr Latham argues that improvements should be made in the UK to make cosmetic surgery safer and more patient orientated, emphasising ‘patient autonomy’.
There is no doubt that cosmetic surgery is big business. While buy-one-get-one-free Botox may seem a joke to some of us, this deal is as familiar as buy-one-get-one-free shampoo or face-cream in some surgeries, but Dr Latham argues that these treatments are not only “risky and invasive, but also health threatening.” – Why? The answer was made obvious in the PIP implant case, which focused attention on the health issues surrounding cosmetic surgery. Women were given breast implants that may have been toxic, and were five times more likely to rupture. When this was discovered, the French government offered all French women who had had these implants free removal. However, in the UK no such offer was made. Dr Latham argues that women were let down by their government and by their surgeons who would claim there was no actual evidence as to the toxicity of these implants. However, Dr Latham pointed out that this case opened people’s eyes to the risks of cosmetic surgery and she hoped this ‘will lead to much needed regulation’, describing this as the ‘good news’.
As the floor opened up to questions, it was clear that many people were opinionated, interested and educated upon the matter as it was ‘enhanced’ from a Q & A session to a full blown discussion in which the word ‘vanity’ was juggled and assessed. There was a sigh from the eager audience when it was announced this would be the last question.
Dr Latham’s talk definitely ended on a high note as her avid listeners left discussing and debating all the way out the doors, clearly eager for the next talk in the HiP series by Dr Ruth Holiday on Monday. It shed light upon the ‘cutting edge’ issues surrounding cosmetic surgery that are often shrouded in myth and secrecy in an honest tone that bears all: no nips and tucks here, ladies.
Lucy Simpson is a prospective journalist who is passionate about reading, writing and eating chocolate. You can read more of her work on her blog.