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Taming the Plastic Surgery Social Media Circus

For years, Hollywood has profited off the plastic surgery industry with shows like Nip/Tuck, Botched, and Dr. 90210. Now this gory form of entertainment is migrating over to social media platforms. According to a recent study published in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Journal, 42 percent of patients are motivated to get plastic surgery based on the photos and videos they see on Instagram.

The study’s authors from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine explain that some plastic surgeons have attracted large numbers of followers on Snapchat and Instagram with theatrical live recordings of surgery procedures. In some videos, surgeons are dressed in costumes and dancing with body tissue. “The crazier, more obscene and edgy the better as far as grabbing attention on social media,” said Clark Schierle, MD, one of the study’s authors and director of aesthetic surgery at Northwestern.

According to the study, only 17.8 percent of the top Instagram posts tagged with plastic surgery-related hashtags were posted by American Board of Plastic Surgery or Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada-certified plastic surgeons. The proliferation of non-board certified surgeons posting plastic surgery content could “come at the expense of patient safety and outcomes,” write the researchers.
“We have to find boundaries we can all agree on as a society that provide a framework for proper ethical behavior in the setting of patient care,” said Schierle.

In an effort to put an end to this plastic surgery social media “circus,” the writers have established a set of ethical conduct guidelines:


“1) Respect for autonomy of the patient.
2) Beneficence or promoting what is best for the patient.
3) Nonmaleficence, also known as “do no harm” and justice.
4) [Maintain] disclosure and informed consent.”

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