I had a routine medical checkup recently. In the interim since my last visit, my doctor moved to a new location and added a new doctor to his practice. While I am full of gratitude for the way my original physician shepherded me through a difficult situation with skill and compassion, I am aware that at a certain point, he will be cutting back. Since Dr. W. (for wonderful), a surgeon, is already past the age when most of his fellow practitioners are no longer active, it made great sense that he would bring in younger blood.
While I have yet to meet the newest member of the team, the new office was revelatory. It is lovely and spacious and appropriately matches the warmth of the staff. What took me by surprise were the tastefully crafted signs telling me of 16 possible plastic surgery options from which I could choose. To be clear, the original office’s options were the type one prefers not to choose from; you are there because you need the surgery, not because it is a preferred activity.
Yet, the alternatives that were now arrayed before me offered an opportunity to upgrade lots of my body parts. From the region of my eyes to my thighs, I could choose to craft a whole new me.
Cosmetic plastic surgery is not new, though many of the procedures that are becoming relatively common are. However, it is new to this medical practice. Post-operation plastic surgery was always on the menu to improve both function and appearance after medical issues were taken care of, but this wasn’t the place you went for an eyelid lift or liposuction.
That seems to be changing, and I understand why that is. (At least, I think I do. This isn’t my field and if I’m off base, I’m sure that my readers will correct me.) In one word, the answer is – insurance. Cosmetic plastic surgery is optional and, as such, people expect to pay for it upfront and only undertake it when they can afford it. The government and insurance companies place all sorts of limits on what can be reimbursed for medical plastic surgery. The intention is good – those recovering from an illness should not go bankrupt restoring their bodies as much as possible to their original state. But an unintended consequence is that doctors, who have huge student loans to repay and less job satisfaction than they used to, must agree to earn less if they opt to do needed work rather than desired work. Quite naturally, fewer and fewer doctors will choose to follow that path.
While my body is not the newest model, I will be turning down the expanded choices my doctor’s office is now offering. I am blessedly grateful for the experience I had with my own surgeon, and I hope that this new trend doesn’t obviate a future patient in the same shoes from getting the time, attention, and expertise that she needs.
Bonus: Enjoy this article by our Rebecca (Lapin) Masinter: Gifts of Dependency.
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