Aesthetic/Cosmetic Surgery and Ethical Challenges

Aesthetic Plast Surg. 2020 Aug;44(4):1364-1374. doi: 10.1007/s00266-020-01821-z. Epub 2008 Sep 27.


Is aesthetic surgery a business guided by market structures aimed primarily at material gain and profit or a surgical intervention intended to benefit patients and an integral part of the health-care system? Is it a frivolous subspecialty or does it provide a real and much needed service to a wide range of patients? At present, cosmetic surgery is passing through an identity crisis as well as an acute ethical dilemma. A closer look from an ethical viewpoint makes clear that the doctor who offers aesthetic interventions faces many serious ethical problems which have to do with the identity of the surgeon as a healer. Aesthetic surgery that works only according to market categories runs the risk of losing the view for the real need of patients and will be nothing else than a part of a beauty industry which has the only aim to sell something, not to help people. Such an aesthetic surgery is losing sight of real values and makes profit from the ideology of a society that serves only vanity, youthfulness, and personal success. Unfortunately, some colleagues brag that they chose the plastic surgery specialty just to become rich aesthetic surgeons, using marketing tactics to promote their practice. This is, at present, the image we project. As rightly proposed, going back a little to Hippocrates, to the basics of being a physician, is urgently warranted! Being a physician is all that a ''cosmetic'' surgeon should be. In the long run, how one skillfully and ethically practices the art of plastic surgery will always speak louder than any words.

Keywords: Aesthetic surgery; Cosmetic surgery; Marketing; Medical ethics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Beauty
  • Esthetics
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Humans
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures*
  • Surgery, Plastic*