It's so simple to be wise.  Just think of something stupid to say, and then don't say it.     Sam Levenson (1911-1980)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

...and Patients' Rights

What do you think of this?  

The National Women's Health Network has been passing the following notice around cyberspace (I have quoted the notice in full since I'm assuming their intention is to spread the word to as many people as possible, and thus they are not picky about copyright issues).
Protest Genital Cosmetic Surgery!

Join NWHN ally, the New View Campaign, on November 17 in New York to protest the genital cosmetic surgery industry that is medicalizing women's sexuality!

Genital cosmetic surgeries like labiaplasty and vaginoplasty are on the rise. Surgeons who promote these procedures claim that they restore and enhance the appearance of the vaginal area, resurfacing and tightening the tissues to reclaim the “youthful appearance and function of the vulvar and vaginal area.” Women assume that these new surgeries are safe and effective, but in fact the claims are unsubstantiated by research, and there’s some evidence that they may create new health problems, as well as promoting a narrow and unrealistic idea of what women’s genitals should look like.

Most women don’t even know that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology doesn’t support these cosmetic genital enhancement surgeries and has publicly said that “it is deceptive to give the impression that [these procedures] are accepted and routine" and has stressed that their safety and effectiveness have not been documented.

To raise public awareness of this assault on women’s health and well-being, the New View Campaign will stage a protest on November 17 outside a cosmetic genital surgeon’s office in New York City from 12 - 2PM. The specific location will be posted on on November 16. We urge NWHN members – particularly those in the NYC area -- to join the protest.

The New Campaign is an ally of the NWHN, which demands new regulations requiring that women requesting these procedures receive adequate information about possible scarring, chronic pain, obstetric risks, loss of genital sensation, reduced erotic pleasure, and post-operative anxieties. It also calls for independent post-procedure research to determine the extent of these adverse reactions.

My mom felt this notice was blogworthy, and thus forwarded it to her blogging family member (yours truly).   As of a quarter to six this morning, my response to her was as follows (with some minor grammatical changes, for clarity):

The physicians making these inaccurate medical claims are being irresponsible and should be treated accordingly, like any other physicians who act irresponsibly.  But what about the people who seek the surgery?  I mean, who the heck doesn't do research before committing their bodies, time, and money to elective surgery of this nature?  Also, I would think that the kind of research they are demanding here is appropriate regarding all types of surgery.

I'm sure there was the same uproar before other cosmetic procedures -- breast enhancement surgery, and botox, and all the rest --  reached their current popularity, and now they're all acceptable practices.  If people insist on demanding unnecessary and risky surgery for the sake of beauty,  I'm not sure the medical world will convince them otherwise, with the exception of the few who could benefit from psychological therapy, to help them with their low self esteem, which led them to want such surgery in the first place.
Having reviewed my original response, I would make a few minor changes to further clarify my response;  namely, that I am not at all belittling people with low self esteem, and that I understand that this is only one of many reasons women seek cosmetic surgery.

Does this fall under the guise of the West's version of medically-sanctioned genital mutilation?  Weigh in, dear readers (including you, Mom, and your friends...)

Keep the balance,



ProfK said...

Good grief! Since you posted this topic can I assume that a little frankness won't be looked at amiss? While I know lots of women, myself included, who might check out their age spots and/or wrinkles in a mirror I don't know many (any?) who routinely check out the vulvar and vaginal areas to see if the they still have their "youthful appearance." Quite frankly, the only person with knowledge about that area is not making any complaints. And being skeptical, about the only people I can imagine having this type of cosmetic surgery are those who are trying to pass for virgin or who lied to the much younger husband they managed to snare. Why would anyone else want to put themselves through a surgical procedure which is not generally approved and which carries such high risk and awful side affects? What's next? Pubic hair implants?

I think this goes beyond genital mutilation. Genital mutilation is something that is forced onto women by men. This is something that women are doing to themselves. And I thought I had heard it all.

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