(Augmented) Breast Is Not Best After All

The odd thing about the daily news is that it can never be predicted a week in advance.

I don’t think that the subject of “breast implants” has ever been discussed on quite so many news bulletins. It is easy to have a schoolboy snigger but Men always under-estimate issues of Womens Health……and more broadly “news values” are often about unreal issues (Syria for example) and not about the real things that real people (in this case real women) worry about.

I dont pretend to understand why quite so many women need breast implants. There are perhaps real issues of Health……..real issues of Esteem……but it seems that most are motivated by a desire to look good….or to have a body seen in lifestyle magazines.

Cosmetic Surgery is expensive and the vast majority of breast implant surgery in Britain is undertaken at private clinics such as the Harley Clinic which has carried out 13,500 “Pip” implants (the total for all of Britain is around 40,000).

These French silicon implants are now considered unsafe. The British Government has suggested that women who are worried should have them removed and expects the private clinics to remove them for free. It seems reasonable. The women are after all consumers and if the product they bought is considered unsafe then it must be their reight to have the problem put right……by the companies they paid.

Most of the private clinics have agreed but the biggest clinic (Harley) says that it cannot afford to do the work. While agreeing it has a duty of care to its patients (Id say “consumers” ) Harley argues that the greater duty of care is the British Governments regulatory body, which flagged up no warning about the silicon implants. That may or may not bea reasonable point but I think harley go too far when suggesting that they are “also a victim in all this”.

But the question has to be asked about the proper limit of State intervention or the use of resources already under stress.

The position is that the Women for the most part chose to have this surgery for mostly cosmetic reasons. They also (and quite a few have been interviewed on television) seemed able to afford the surgery……although clearly some borrowed large sums to do it. The onus appears to be on the private clinics to put this right.

To its credit the British (or rather English) Government has said that it will remove these dangerous implants IF private companies have gone out of business or if private companies refuse to do so (they are relying to some extent on the ethics of the doctors who carried out the work) but this seems to be letting the Harley Clinic, the biggest operator (no pun intended) in the field off the hook. Transferring the cost of private elective surgery to the Taxpayer seems an unecessary burden on ordinary folks on National Health Service waiting lists for hip replacements.

Yet there is a genuine case for saying that the decision to have the breast implants was “cosmetic” but the decision to have them removed is “medical” and arguably a responsibility of the State.

The “English” Governments decision to REMOVE implants free (if the private company refuses) seems more generous than it actually is. The implants will be REMOVED not REPLACED, which is I think tacky……….on TV some brave women showed the consequence of “removal” without “replacement” and it was unpleasant…………I should point out that the “Welsh” Government (obviously dealing with fewer people) has taken a more sensitive line…..if necessary they will “replace”.

It is a difficult story……….and one without winners………health care and body image……elective and unnecessary surgery and medical need……….the relatioship between private and State medicine………..consumer rights.


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