Shocking health risks of unregulated cosmetic industry in India

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There exist only limited mechanisms to prevent the use of demonstrably harmful cosmetic procedures. Representational Photo: iStock
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The government in England is launching a campaign next month on “botched” cosmetic procedures and the resulting impact on a person’s physical and mental health. This initiative comes in the light of an increase in deaths of people undergoing surgeries such as a “Brazilian butt lift”. The campaign is also a result of warnings about rise in the use of self-injected dermal and lip fillers that have led to an increase in health complications. England’s Department of Health and Social Care have informed that the aim of the campaign is to inform the public about the need to seek professional help while getting fillers, Botox and other cosmetic surgeries.

The demand for cosmetic procedures has gone up owing to factors such as high income, greater purchasing power, and the increasing influence of media. Global sensations such as Kylie Jenner have made it fashionable to have multiple cosmetic surgeries. Many Bollywood celebrities have also followed her lead in the past that has led to the commodification of the cosmetic industry in India.

False and misleading advertisements flourish in the media and on the internet in the fight for a share of the market, and the patient’s welfare becomes a second priority as gimmicks are promoted in the name of scientific development. This also raises questions about the nature of voluntariness and full disclosure. Even if one believes that cosmetic surgery can help in the promotion and maintenance of health, such commercialisation is contrary to efforts to make the discipline a legitimate medical practice.

Rapid growth and expansion of cosmetic surgery in the past decade have thrown light into the need for regulation of the cosmetic industry. This comes in the wake of Bollywood actor Sridevi’s death last year, where speculations were rife that her death is due to alleged cosmetic surgeries that she had undergone. Though her autopsy reports cleared the air, the incident brought several deaths due to cosmetic surgeries into the public.


According to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) there have been two such cases, where liposuction and breast implant proved deadly to two young people. The Indian Association of Dermatologists has reported the third case, where a female died due to a hair transplant procedure at a beauty salon.

Though the global cosmetic industry experiences a boom, India lacks proper guidelines to regulate the use of specific products and procedures for cosmetic surgery purposes. There exist only limited mechanisms to prevent the use of demonstrably harmful procedures. All over the country, especially in cosmopolitan cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, a number of private clinics providing unregulated cosmetic surgeries and beauty quick-fixes to attain the ‘killer-look’ are mushrooming.

Taking heed of the steps undertaken by England, the government of India needs to undertake steps to maintain professional standards and regulate the practice of cosmetic surgery. As in any medical and surgical speciality, cosmetic surgical procedures should be subjected to rigorous research protocols before they are applied on patients. Any clinical research initiative in cosmetic surgery must adhere to the highest standards of research subject protection.

Cosmetic surgeries also lead to several health problems including pancreatitis, severe burns, diabetes mellitus, sickle cell anaemia etc. Strict policies should be undertaken by the government to regulate the safety of these procedures so that the physical health of the patients is not at risk. The stress of surgery, lack of sleep and recuperation that often include pain, fatigue and swelling can take a mental toll on the patients. To address these issues, there should be guidelines to prepare the patients for the mental and emotional costs of cosmetic surgery.


(The article first appeared in The Week)

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