Academic journal article Journal of Critical Incidents

Is Female Cosmetic Genital Surgery Legitimate?

Academic journal article Journal of Critical Incidents

Is Female Cosmetic Genital Surgery Legitimate?

Article excerpt

Is female cosmetic genital surgery (FCGS) a legitimate business? Doctors that performed FCGS and their patients thought so while professional societies questioned the practice. The Second Global Symposium on Cosmetic Vaginal Surgery was held on September 23-25, 2010 in Las Vegas (International Society of Cosmetogynecology, 2010). Plastic surgeons had established FCGS as a service promoted on the internet, including vaginal rejuvenation and tightening, labia reduction and beautification, and reconstruction of the hymen.

Several professional societies voiced their opposition. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RANZCOG) publicly opposed FCGS (Braun, 2010, p. 1393). At least one professional society in the US expressed its opposition; the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) cautioned against the various practices.

Plastic surgeons offered FCGS services even though ACOG stated these are, "are not medically indicated, nor is there documentation of their safety and effectiveness," and that "it is deceptive to give the impression that any of these procedures are accepted and routine surgical practices." It warned of "potential complications, including infection, altered sensation, ... pain, adhesions, and scarring." The report indicated wide variation in the external appearance of female genitalia. ACOG was "concerned with the ethical issues associated with the marketing and national franchising of cosmetic vaginal procedures. A business model that controls the dissemination of scientific knowledge is troubling." Medical advances are supposed to be documented in professional journals, not true of FCGS.

Health benefits and risks were a concern. According to Braun (2010), FCGS procedures were questionable. Vaginal tightening may not lead to improved sexual function. The role of engorged labia minora during sexual arousal was not fully understood, so permanent alteration of the labia minora through FCGS could pose unknown risks and reduce sensitivity vital for sexual functioning.

Since appearances of female genitalia vary, promotion of cosmetic surgery rested on the unscientific assumption there was a perfect model. Liao and Creighton (2007, p. 1091) discussed women's requests for FCGS: "... our patients sometimes cited restrictions on lifestyle for their decision. These restrictions included an inability to wear tight clothing, go to the beach ... or avoidance of some sexual practices." The authors referred to the current market orientation as a demand for "designer vaginas." They pointed out that in their study of 50 premenopausal women there were significant variations in the physical features and symmetry of female genitalia. Yet women approached the physician with a standard view, relying on images from advertising or pornography.

External images of ideal female sexuality in the media did not, of course, represent the natural beauty of women or the range of what a female might consider beneficial. The New View Campaign (2010) challenged the notion that current medical practices and standards fully acknowledged the sexual needs of women. The complexity of women's needs thus demands enhanced appreciation of the socio-cultural, political and economic context, partner relationships, psychological factors and medical factors (New View Campaign, Manifesto 2010). Female sexuality was complex; most women would not really be satisfied by an FCGS standard established by plastic surgeons responding to clients' incorrect standard images.

Business Legitimacy

When a new technology, FCGS in this case, lays a foundation for a potential new line of business, entrepreneurs need to learn how to deal with strategic issues peculiar to the embryonic stage of an industry. Furthermore, a technology is not always value neutral, but can involve ethical controversies. Entrepreneurs should assess the ethical implications of the technology and formulate strategies to shape the institutional environment to their advantage. …

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