First there was Extreme Makeover, then came The Swan, now Bridalplasty from the E! network joins a long line of tasteless, over-the-top plastic surgery exploitation shows.
For those who haven’t heard about Bridalplasty yet, take 12 soon-to-be-brides, stick them in one house for four months and watch them compete in wedding based competitions from writing vows to planning a honeymoon, all for a chance to win their “wish-list” of plastic surgery procedures. Each week one bride-to-be is awarded a procedure from their wish list. The last bride standing gets her entire wish list. The winner will then reveal her new appearance to her family, friends and future husband at the altar on her wedding day. We are all collectively rolling our eyes too.
Why Plastic Surgery on TV is Bad Medicine
Medical documentaries have given way to sensationalist reality TV shows. I haven’t seen Bridalplasty, but I completely object to the whole notion of competing for plastic surgery procedures. In my view, this is blatantly wrong and unethical as it exploits these patients vulnerabilities in the name of ratings (in the case of the TV network) and in the quest for public relations exposure (in the case of the surgeons involved).
Not every person is a candidate for plastic surgery. The ideal candidate for plastic surgery isn’t looking to completely overhaul their appearance. The ideal candidate is essentially happy with themselves and their life and is looking to improve upon trouble area(s) to feel as confident with their outer appearance as they are inside.
At my Denver plastic surgery practice I routinely see women and men interested in having plastic surgery before a major event in their lives, some are even brides-to-be. These patients take the time to understand
what the procedure fully entails from cost to recovery time. Their plastic surgery choices are made with the support of family, friends and the husband-to-be. Most importantly, these patients have realistic expectations for their plastic surgery procedure and are only looking to improve the way they feel about themselves on the big day and beyond.
Like marriage, plastic surgery should only be embarked upon after careful consideration. A quality, ethical plastic surgeon is devoted to helping patients by performing the right operation for the right type of patient.
This is why we have Board Certified Plastic Surgeons and a Professional Society, Right?
Sure. What is the point of having professional societies in medicine if not to speak out against such negative messages that “play into the notion that if you achieve the ‘perfect’ appearance, everything will be better?”
But to my great disappointment, I have learned that the surgeon on this TV show is both Board Certified as a Diplomate of the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) and is member in good standing of the American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS).
Don’t Medical Boards and Medical Specialty Societies have ethical standards?
Yes! The American Board of Plastic Surgery Code of Ethics states:
Any diplomate of the Board will be subject to disciplinary action including suspension and revocation of certification if … the Board determines… that the diplomate … participates in an event, contest or other promotion in which the prize is any procedure.” It further states “A diplomate shall not compensate or give anything of value, including operative services, directly or indirectly [to a TV show, etc] … in return for… professional publicity.
The Code of Ethics of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has very similar prohibitions of both plastic surgery contests and of the gratuitous donation of surgery for publicity.
Yet the press release for Bridalplasty seems to imply that the whole point of the show is to win a contest: “E Announces New Competition Reality Series” where “Brides-to-Be Compete in Wedding -Themed Challenges Collecting Extreme Plastic Surgery Procedures While Trying to Win a Dream Celebrity-Style Wedding.”
Of all my professional credentials, I hold most dear my American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) membership, in no small part due to the rigorous ethical standards to which it holds it’s members. The surgeon for Bridalplasty claims he is working within the ethical code of our profession. This frustrates me as I cannot reconcile how our Codes of Ethics could reasonably be interpreted to allow a member surgeon to participate.
This Show Seems to be Counting on Driving Viewership from Bad Publicity
“Bridalplasty: The Final TV Show Ever Made Before Mankind Slips Quietly Into The Dust” is one writer’s headline. Here are some others: “Bridalplasty: 15 Things That Made Me Die Inside,” “Bridalplasty Unveils Worst in Reality TV,” and “Bridalplasty: Reality TV Hitting Rock Bottom?”.
Not surprisingly, the general public appears to have the same lack luster opinion of the show as I do. From lack luster premiere ratings to scathing reviews, it’s good to see that the general public understands the true goals of plastic surgery, and also places the importance of patient education, thoughtful decision making and patient care as priorities when considering plastic surgery.
What Do You Think?
I am not willing to compromise my beliefs here. I believe that actions have consequences, and that the message of this show is just flat out wrong. I believe that it is my duty to stand against compromising our professional ethics. What do you think? If you agree or disagree, I look forward to your comments below.