The Council is beginning a new project exploring the ethical issues of cosmetic procedures, with a particular focus on the role and responsibilities of health and scientific professionals in responding to demand for invasive non-reconstructive procedures that aim to enhance or normalise appearance.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="224"]Professor Jeanette Edwards Professor Jeanette Edwards, Chair of the Working Party[/caption]

The Working Party for this project will be chaired by Jeanette Edwards, Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, and previously a member of the Council's Working Party on donor conception. Following a call for expressions of interest earlier in the year, further Working Party members are currently being recruited.

In light of the many factors that may influence people’s decisions to seek cosmetic procedures, the project will address questions including:
  • What are the responsibilities of health and scientific professionals, who develop, offer and promote cosmetic procedures?

  • What are the ethical differences between cosmetic procedures and others ways of changing physical appearance, such as ear-piercing, tanning or tattooing?

  • Are some procedures unacceptable, even if consented to?

  • Are there certain groups of people to whom it would be unethical to offer procedures, even if consented to?

  • Do we need further regulation in this area?

A central part of the project will be hearing the views and experiences of a wide range of people on these issues – particularly people who have had or are thinking about having a cosmetic procedure. The Working Party will embark upon a programme of engagement activities to ensure a diversity of views inform its deliberations.

Last year, to inform this project, the Council held a roundtable scoping meeting to explore ethical and societal questions raised by the increasing use of cosmetic procedures, and seek advice from a range of experts about how the Council might usefully contribute to debates surrounding this and other related issues such as body modification, beauty and normalness. A note of this meeting is available online.

The Council is also a partner on an AHRC-funded project Beauty Demands, which aims to bring academics, practitioners and policy-makers together to consider the changing requirements of beauty in a series of workshops. The most recent one (held on 3-4 June) was hosted by the Council and focused on the role of professionals in responding to the changing requirements of beauty. Read a blog post about this workshop.

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Find out more about this project.

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