Don't rush to send children to surgeon

There are long-term risks in allowing young children to have plastic surgery

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Cosmetic surgery has become more and more common, in the UAE and around the world.

While medically indicated surgery that changes a person's appearance is welcomed by all, there is some debate about other types of plastic surgery. When parents decide to have such operations performed on their children, they can stir debate, not to say controversy.

As The National reported yesterday, the number of cosmetic surgeries among children is increasing in the UAE; some patients are as young as seven. Nearly 30 per cent of bookings at the Medical Arts Clinic in Dubai next month are for patients under 18.

Parents often deem such operations necessary if their children suffer bullying at school because of having big ears, for example, or a crooked nose. Being victimised daily for such a reason can have a deep effect on those children. Any parent whose child repeatedly comes home in tears can hardly be blamed for looking for a surgical solution.

But in some cases this can send children a wrong message, as Dr Raymond Hamden of the Human Relations Institute and Clinics says: "It teaches kids there's something wrong with them. It validates the bullies and teaches [the victims] that others should govern how they feel about themselves." This is an important point. In many cases it is more appropriate to build up children's confidence by teaching them to like who they are, regardless of their appearance.

Still, there can be no simple formula for assessing all such cases. Where exactly should we draw the line between "necessary" and "narcissistic"? Few people disapprove of children having dental braces, for example, but a juvenile's "nose job" may be controversial. and cosmetic liposuction raises real doubts. There is a difference. Imperfections such as overly prominent ears are permanent unless treated surgically. But when it comes to obesity, there are usually a number of lifestyle remedies that can and should be tried before any resort to surgery.

Also, the amount of risk differs from case to case; there are unfortunately occasional botched surgeries.

Parents need to think responsibly before sending their children under the knife. In most cases, helping them change the way they think about themselves is the best option.