Germany Considers Banning Cosmetic Surgery For Minors: Why America Should Take Note

In one of those lucid acts of German common sense, the two political parties set to form a coalition government — the nation's Christian Democratic Union, party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, and its Social Christian Union — proposed Monday to ban plastic surgery for the nation's minors, unless it's medically necessary. The country ranks 14th in the world for greatest amount of plastic surgeries performed per capita, but if passed, the law will make children's surgeries illegal beginning next year.

"Youth protection is also about protecting young people from the consequences of a wrong-headed beauty craze," health spokesman for the Christian Democratic Union, Jens Spahn, said. "Unnecessarily subjecting a young body which is still growing to such a significant procedure can have dire consequences, both physically and mentally. It is completely unacceptable to give a 15-year-old a breast enlargement as a Christmas present. Plastic surgery that is not necessary on medical grounds should be banned."

On this side of the pond, surgeons in America — which is, by the by, the world's fourth-most-likely nation to go under the knife (per capital) — performed 219,000 plastic surgeries on teens ages 13-19 in 2010. Which is something the American Society for Plastic Surgeons sounds pretty proud of:

Common physical characteristics or concerns a teen may wish to correct include a misshapen nose, protruding ears, overly large breasts, asymmetrical breasts, or severe acne and scarring. Teens frequently gain self-esteem and confidence when their physical problems are corrected. In fact, successful plastic surgery may reverse the social withdrawal that so often accompanies teens who feel different.

Oh my God, someone had bad acne? How dare any human get acne? And damn you, genes, you gave someone a wonky nose. Both of these things are obviously individual choices and make someone a lesser person.

Now, compare the German Medical Association's standpoint:

"We support a ban on cosmetic surgery on children and young people," vice president of the German Medical Association, Martina Wenker, said.

Another statement from the ASPS said that plastic surgery for the "right patients" can have a positive impact on teens' physical and emotional development — erm, even if it is at a time when the "right patient" isn't fully physically or emotionally developed. Because nothing imbues self-confidence better than a knife to do it for you. The ASPS, while having "no formal position" on the matter, lists three criteria for teen patients.

The teenager initiates the request.While parental support is essential, the teenager's own desire for plastic surgery must be clearly expressed and repeated over a period of time.

The teenager has realistic goals.The young person must appreciate both the benefits and limitations of plastic surgery, avoiding unrealistic expectations about life changes that will occur as a result of the procedure.

The teenager has sufficient maturity.Teenagers must be able to tolerate the discomfort and temporary disfigurement of a surgical procedure. Plastic surgery is not recommended for teens who are prone to mood swings or erratic behavior, who are abusing drugs and/or alcohol, or who are being treated for clinical depression or other mental illness.

Basically, they need to beg their parents multiple times, not expect to come out looking like ScarJo, be okay with a little pain, and not consider Barcardi 151 a nightcap.

In Germany, the percentage of procedures performed on under-18s ranks at 1.2 percent — mostly for the same things American teenagers got done (ear pinning, male breast reduction, and nose jobs.) However, American teens accounted for two percent, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons Report of the 2010 Plastic Surgery Statistics.

Though the total number of U.S. teens getting cosmetic procedures done (keep in mind, these stats include things like chemical peels and laser hair removal) has more than halved since 10 years ago, it's not likely that the teens are going to give it up all together. Social media, according to a press release from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, has inspired a 31 percent increase in surgery requests — 73 percent of which are cosmetic in nature — because selfies, you guys.

If the ban goes through in Germany, the nation's teens will have to wait until the hormone haze of adolescence is over, and try and accept themselves for who they are. Those lucky American minors will get to physically remove, alter, or otherwise change the features they're not so proud of... Wait. Something's off here.

(Image: Vishal Kapoor/Flickr)