BERLIN – Given the life-long ramifications involved, choosing whether or not to undergo cosmetic surgery is by definition a serious decision. Yet a fair number of Germany’s nip-and-tuck procedures – things like breast enlargement, nose jobs, or abdominal liposuction – are performed on children and adolescents.
There is presently no minimum age for such operations, which are either sought by the patients themselves or by their parents, who have a specific physical ideal they wish their offspring to match. The result is that patients under 20 account for roughly 10% of all cosmetic procedures, according to the German Association of Plastic Surgeons.
That could soon change. Germany’s conservative Union parties, the CDU and CSU, are presently working on draft legislation that would forbid cosmetic surgery for minors (persons under 18) unless there are medical grounds for it. “For good reasons, the state protects young people from themselves as far as alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking go, and we think it’s high time it did the same with regard to unnecessary and often risky cosmetic operations”, said CDU health expert Jens Spahn.
So far, however, the bill does not have the backing of the coalition’s junior party, the Free Democratic Party (FDP). “We are only currently aware of a few individual Union politicians seeking to ban cosmetic surgery for minors. We have yet to be presented with specific reasons or reliable facts with regard to this,” Heinz Laufermann, speaking for the FDP faction, told the Berliner Morgenpost. Laufermann went on to say that the boundaries between medical necessity and a purely cosmetic operation are often “extremely unclear.”
Spahn disagrees. “The difference between purely cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery for example after a cancer operation is extremely clear,” he said, calling Laufermann’s concern a non-issue. “In the first instance, health insurance doesn’t pay, and in the second it does.”
Finding a concrete way to anchor the project legally is another sticking point. In the last legislative period, an attempt to attach the bill to youth protection legislation failed. Its CDU/CSU backers might try now to have it taken up at the state, rather than federal level.
Laws differ in other countries. According to American Society of Plastic Surgeons, nearly 219,000 cosmetic plastic surgery procedures were performed on people age 13-19 in 2010.
Read the full story in German by Florian Kain
Photo - gailf548
*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations