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© 2019 THE INCLUSION BLOG. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The Impact of Beauty: Cosmetic Surgery, the Body Positive Movement, & Disability

What do you guys think about cosmetic surgeries on persons with visible disabilities?

I read this article on Richard Norris; the first person to receive a successful face transplant in human history.  There have been many partial reconstructions but never a fully realized transplant, tongue included.

In 1997 Norris was the victim of a gun accident that mangled his face beyond recognition.  His jaw was completely shattered, his tongue destroyed, and only a fleshy knob remained of what was once his nose.

Eduardo Rodriguez, a Baltimore reconstructive facial surgeon, performed the successful surgery March 19, 2012.

For almost a decade previously, Norris shunned human contact and mirrors, living in a near hermit state.

The surgery not only propelled him out into the world but made him a media sensation.  Completely changing his and many other lives for the better.

His features are irregular, and there is something indefinably strange about how he looks, but his appearance is improved a thousand fold.

This all sounds good, right?  No complaints, guy in tragic accident gets a new face.  Win, win.

Life enhancing surgeries, like Norris’s near miraculous face transplant, are being criticized because they are not medically necessary.  They are expensive and some believe them to be a waste of money.

Many formerly common physical disabilities are operated on almost at birth.  Things like a cleft palate and club feet are a thing of the past  in industrialized nations with universal medicare.

It is cold hard fact that perceived beauty impacts our life outcomes.  Being more beautiful can significantly improve our career chances and the likelihood of successfully finding a partner.

On the other hand I’m a huge fan of the rising ‘Crip Cool’ movement.  Where models with colostomy bags are a super cool reality.

What do you guys think?  Anybody care to weigh in on cosmetic surgery versus accepting people as they are?  Where to draw the line?  How that line should be drawn?  What would you advocate for on behalf of the people you support if their disability, or a part of it, was a visible impairment that was surgically alterable?

I find myself divided.  As per usual, I think it should be up to the person.  Everyone’s individual experience and needs are different.

On a happy body positive note, I leave you with Meghan Trainor’s – All About that Bass;


Inclusion Blog Post

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  1. His quality of life is infinitely better, therefore it’s worth it. Many people still go out in the world after having been severely burned or had acid thrown in their faces; some people are more able to stare down the stares, or simply ignore them, some aren’t.

    Sadly, our world is rather shallow and superficial, so whatever lets people live their life without mental anguish is fine by me.

  2. It’s tough to find the line! At what point do you call it asthetic instead of a life improvement?

    There seems to be a large improvement in how people see themselves and how much people interact socially in many of these cases, like the man with the severely damaged face you referred to. Cancer survivors can feel like less of a victim and people with birth defects can expect normal career opportunities without having to fight harder than the rest of us. Since mental health is as important as bodily health, I would argue that in at least some cases, is indeed medically necessary.

    While I don’t have any surgical improvements possible, I’m so grateful for other technological miracles that social medicine has made possible for me. It’s absolutely cheaper for the government to pay for those technologies so I can go out and contribute to taxes instead of staying in and being cared for.

    • So many people outside of supports, or who aren’t close to someone that has substantially benefited from support, don’t often see the long term impacts to our society. Increased mental, social, and physical ability to be independent leads to better outcomes for us all. Thanks for bringing that up Chris. As usual, a well thought out and reasoned argument.