Dateline NBC tackled a sure-to-be controversial — not to mention surprising — topic last night: Children getting plastic surgery as a solution to bullying.
One teen in particular, a 15-year-old girl named Renata, reached out to a New York-based nonprofit called Little Baby Face Foundation, with a letter detailing her upsetting bullying history (she was forced to home school because of how self-conscious she became). “They were just calling me ‘that girl with the big nose,’” Renata told NBC News. “It just really hurts. And you can’t get over it.”
The foundation, which treats low-income children with facial birth defects for free, decided that Renata — who had heard of the foundation treating a girl in a similar situation — qualified for treatment.
Little Baby Face Foundation insists that they only treat patients with legitimate facial deformities — Renata was diagnosed with a hemi-facial microsomia, the second-most common facial deformity after clefts, which left her face underdeveloped and caused her nose to lean to the left. Though, she was also given a chin implant to balance out her face, and was unaware of her medically-defined birth defect when she reached out to the organization.
Even if LBFF does have strict qualifications, experts are concerned about this way of thinking: the idea surgery will fix a bullied child’s problems entirely. Perhaps other, more affluent families will hear Renta’s story and decide to look into plastic surgery to fix more cosmetic issues.
“They may do the surgery and expect happiness to result, or, let’s say, ‘I’m not going to be bullied anymore,” Gail Saltz, a New York City psychiatrist, tells NBC. “But it may not turn out that way, because bullying is complicated, and usually it isn’t down to one physical attribute.”
Another issue is that it forces the victim to deal with the bullying in an extreme, life-altering way, allowing the bullies to go on being bullies.
“Are we saying that the responsibility falls on the kid who’s bullied, to alter themselves surgically?” psychologist Vivian Diller asked in an interview with NBC News. As Hoda Kotbe says, in the above clip, “Do you feel like the bully wins?”
Experts recommend that, at the very least, patients are given counseling before and after plastic surgery procedures.
What do you think: Should plastic surgery be seen as an acceptable solution to bullying?