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Plastic surgeons under pressure from parents to operate on children

Courtesy: Some surgeons say they performed elective surgery on children against their best interests.

Parents are pressuring plastic surgeons into operating on children as young as one, a recent study has found.

University of Melbourne researchers questioned 22 Australian plastic, oral and maxillofacial surgeons.

About a third said parents wanted their children’s ears pinned back or a mole or birthmark removed, not because the children were suffering, but because of the parents’ own embarrassment or distress.

One surgeon said: “Sometimes we’ll see kids who are one or two years old and they’ve got a birthmark on their face or something and the parents are kind of embarrassed about it, or the parents don’t like the attention it causes for them … the motivation is to benefit the parent … they’re embarrassed.

“They’ll say things like ‘everyone stares at the kid and me in the checkout line and people come up to me and ask me what’s wrong with my kid’s face’ and all this sort of stuff and it really, really, really distresses the parent.”

Elective operations most commonly performed include ear pinning, cleft lip surgery, mole removal, birthmark removal, rhinoplasty and scar removal.

Some surgeons said they performed elective surgery on children against their best interests because of pressure from parents, lead researcher Lauren Notini said in an article in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery.

“Surgeons were concerned that children may be exposed to risk for no compensating benefit,” she said.

Surgeons said they weighed up many factors when considering parents’ requests for their children’s elective surgery, including the children’s wishes, severity of the facial difference, the child’s age and the parents’ reasons for wanting their child’s face altered.