Professor aims to give cosmetic surgery a new complexion

GLENDA COOPER

In a world which has created a "new cosmetic underclass", plastic surgery should have the same moral value as treating heart disease, Britain's first professor of plastic surgery said yesterday.

Presenting the inaugural Medical Journalists' Association/Action Research Lecture, Professor Angus McGrouther said it was time to question labels such as "morally worthy" cosmetic surgery (for burns victims) and "morally unworthy" surgery (seen as pandering to people's vanity).

Two million people in Britain have some form of disfigurement and research suggests that plastic surgery can dramatically improve the quality of their lives.

"I have seen three people in my clinic today who came in with stories of abuse from strangers for no reason other than they have a physical deformity," said Professor McGrouther. "It is a strange idea that we put values on treatment of different things. We see it as a good thing to treat cancer or accidents but we're not quite sure about disfigurement.

"We should be looking at whether we can help people with treatment rather than whether or not it is worthy. Someone with heart disease could have been a heavy smoker, but someone with a disfigurement has no control over that. We have got curious values. It's too simplistic to classify it as life-threatening or not." He said that he deplored the "supermodel culture of the 1990s" which was obsessed with idealised body images, causing those who could not measure up to lock themselves away. There was nothing new about the power of body image, he added - after all, Helen of Troy had launched a thousand ships with her face - but that film, TV and advertising industries had given it a sharp new definition.

"It is society at large which needs treatment. We need to adjust our views about body image. Disfigurement is the last bastion of discrimination.

"We always used to have beautiful icons to look at but now there is encouragement to imitate those icons." he said.

"We're much less tolerant about the way people look. This is true of all walks of life. It's questionable as to whether Winston Churchill, or even Harold Wilson, who was also on the rotund side, would have been electable today."

It was no surprise that the Princess of Wales had been treated more sympathetically than the buxom Duchess of York.

"Until her recent appearance on Panorama on BBC1, most of the public had little idea about the way Diana spoke or about her intellect. Until then we had only heard a few soundbites. We'd only had one criterion by which we could judge her directly: her body image."

Research in Oxford had shown that breast reduction surgery could have a dramatic effect on the quality of life. Removing a tattoo from a young man's face could help him get a job and support his wife and family.

The professor went on to warn about the limits of surgery.

Reports about Michael Jackson had created a misleading impression. Cosmetic surgery had helped to build up a half-white, half-black, half- child, half-adult, half-male, half-female image. "Most of the procedures he appears to have had have a limited lifespan. For example, the nasal reconstruction he's had is notorious for requiring additional multiple grafts over the years - a kind of chronic maintenance policy."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower