[EDITORIAL NOTE: If you have written any blog posts on political issues this week, be sure to get links to me by the end of today for the Sunday Election Issues post. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, see this post.]
A week or two ago, I ran across an odious blog from an organization, The Patients Advantage (sic), that matches up prospective patients with cosmetic surgeons. In a recent post, the following reasons were given for “NEEDing” a face lift:
- wrinkle treatment
- aging skin is not always pleasant or attractive
- embarrassed by the way you look
- depressed with signs of aging
- over-the-counter skin improvement products haven’t worked
- immediate results
- just want a change
Why are people who seek face lifts “embarrassed” or “depressed” by their appearance? Because we live in a culture that perpetuates negative beliefs about getting old – that elders are universally sick, impotent, senile, useless, isolated, poor and dependant.
These beliefs are manifested every day through elder abuse, age discrimination in the workplace, criminal victimization, less aggressive health care, invisibility (particularly toward elder women) and generally patronizing behavior.
Recently, The New York Times reported that some dermatologists and plastic surgeons maintain differing systems of treatment, favoring cosmetic patients over those with medical needs:
"'Cosmetic patients have a much more private environment than general medical patients because they expect that,' said Dr. Richey, who estimated that he spent about 40 percent of his time treating cosmetic patients. 'We are a little bit more sensitive to their needs.'
"Like airlines that offer first-class and coach sections, dermatology is fast becoming a two-tier business in which higher-paying customers often receive greater pampering. In some dermatologists' offices, freer-spending cosmetic patients are given appointments more quickly than medical patients for whom health insurance pays fixed reimbursement fees.
"In other offices, cosmetic patients spend more time with a doctor. And in still others, doctors employ a special receptionist, called a cosmetic concierge, for their beauty patients."
That means someone who, according to The Patients Advocate, wants a face lift “just for a change” gets preferential treatment over another with, for example, a squamous cell cancer.
The obvious reason, of course, is physician greed. Cosmetic patients pay cash, whatever the doctor can get away with charging. But the underlying reason for all cosmetic surgery is ageism which Dr. Robert N. Butler, who coined the term in 1968, discusses in his recent book, The Longevity Revolution:
“Ageism takes shape in stereotypes and myths, outright disdain and dislike, sarcasm and scorn, subtle avoidance and discriminatory practices in housing, employment, pension arrangements, health care, and other services…”
Let me make my position clear: aside from disfigurement due to accident or disease, all cosmetic surgery is ageist and all who participate in it – physicians and patients – contribute to the common belief that old people are ugly resulting in the prejudice and discrimination Dr. Butler so succinctly describes.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz takes us back a few years in Memories are Made of This.]