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Summary: We all like a little TV, that’s for sure. It’s a great way to unwind. But what happens when we start seeing plastic surgeons on the boob tube (no pun intended). Can we count on what we see as accurate, or do we have to take it with a grain of salt? The answer might be a little more complicated than you would, at first, assume.

What’s With Plastic Surgery on Reality Television?

Reality television hit it big in the early 2000’s. It started with shows such as Survivor and American Idol and quickly expanded to include everything from marriage proposals to game shows in taxi cabs. And now, SnapChat superstar “Dr. Miami” is getting his own reality TV show. It’s not the first plastic surgery reality television show (Botched comes to mind), but it does raise some questions about plastic surgery in the public spotlight.

To be sure, there are no indications that “Dr. Miami” or anyone associated with his television show (or SnapChat account) are doing anything improper or unethical. In fact, they seem to be doing everything right, and that’s a good thing. But it does raise some questions about what, exactly, is the ethical way to create a reality show around plastic surgery.

Responsibilities of Surgeons

Because plastic surgeons are medical professionals first and TV stars second, there are some ethical and legal challenges to creating a television show. First and foremost, the television show needs to protect the privacy of patients. All medical patients have certain rights to privacy, after all (usually covered under something called HIPAA).

In any case, not everyone wants their plastic surgery broadcast to the world. In fact, many procedures, such as facelifts or breast lifts, are designed to be so subtle as to look natural. Many patients are just more comfortable keeping the fact that they’re getting plastic surgery close to the vest. They don’t want it to be public knowledge.

Of course, not all patients have such reservations. Many patients are completely open and forthcoming about their procedures. Any plastic surgeon or cosmetic surgeon will need to take these wishes into account.

Responsibilities of the Patient

As always, patients have a responsibility to advocate for themselves. That’s as true whether you’re talking about getting advice from a rhinoplasty expert in Los Angeles or getting a consultation with a breast augmentation specialist in New York. It’s also true, by the way, if you’re sitting in an emergency room talking to a doctor about a runny nose.

Advocating for yourself is tough, exhausting, but necessary—because medical professionals are human beings and make mistakes. Advocating for yourself can help keep those mistakes to a minimum. In the context of a television show, it means asking questions about how you will be portrayed and represented. It also means asking questions about how much will be shown and how you can opt out of the experience.

Plastic Surgery in the Public Eye

To be sure, plastic surgery is no stranger to the public eye. Celebrities getting plastic surgery know this all too well. Often, plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeons have been supporting characters in the reality shows of celebrities, such as the Kardashians. The point, ultimately, is that surgeons generally know how to behave in the public eye—and the new television show for “Dr. Miami” isn’t going to change that.

Plastic surgery has always been, in terms of medical fields, pretty uniquely public-facing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and I think it has something to do with how we want to show off the results of plastic surgery. Patients and doctors alike want everyone to see their results.

One way to do that is through the media. Reality television has a way of making things seem “real” even when they aren’t, necessarily.

The Responsibility of the Viewer

And that brings us to the last segment of our little public service announcement: the responsibility of the viewer. So let’s say you’re watching Dr. Miami, or you’re on his SnapChat account—you have a responsibility to. And that’s the responsibility to acknowledge that one social media account or one television show is not representative of an entire profession.

It’s true that you can learn a lot about plastic surgery by watching these SnapChat videos. But there’s still a filter. Someone is still deciding what you should see, either for educational purposes or dramatic purposes. The key is to use your critical thinking skills when digesting that media.

And, of course, the best opinions often come from (you guessed it) your own plastic surgeon. So if you have questions about a procedure, that’s the best place for you to find answers. Reality TV might help you form some questions—but you should always trust your surgeon more than the television.

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