Track the Knife: Plastic Surgery Shows Upset Doctors
The recent proliferation of reality TV plastic-surgery shows marks one of the stranger intersections of American society's fascination with medicine, appearance and "reality" programming. Popular shows now on air include ABC's "Extreme Makeover," Fox's "The Swan," MTV's "I Want a Famous Face," TLC's "Plastic Surgery: Before and After," E!'s "Dr. 90210" and Bravo's "Miami Slice."
John Persing, M.D. explained the background of the Yale University School of Medicine: "Despite widespread unease about the effects that reality television shows have on patient decision making and expectations, no data existed on how these shows affected potential patients."
To get a handle on the phenomenon, the researchers interviewed 42 cosmetic plastic-surgery patients, and found that 57% were "high-intensity" watchers of plastic-surgery shows--meaning regular viewers of at least one ongoing program. Ninety-five percent of the respondents were female.
These respondents attributed a substantial degree of influence to these shows and other media in shaping their decision-making process. Four out of five respondents said TV influenced them directly to pursue a particular surgical procedure.
While this was a small sampling, media planners would probably rejoice at this level of TV impact; the doctors feel just the opposite. Dr. Persing opined: "It is unfortunate that patients are turning toward the entertainment industry for educational information--we had hoped for different results. These shows may create unrealistic, unhealthy expectations about what plastic surgery can do for you. Although it's called reality TV, it may not be reality."
Overall, according to the study, "more than 95% of patients are aware of plastic-surgery reality television shows, and the majority of them are high-intensity viewers."