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Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery:
Cosmetic Special Topic: PDF Only

Are Plastic Surgery Advertisements Conforming to the Ethical Codes of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons?.

Spilson, Sandra V. M.P.H.; Chung, Kevin C. M.D., M.S.; Greenfield, Mary Lou V. H. M.P.H., M.S.; Walters, Madonna M.S., R.N.

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Abstract

: Cosmetic surgeons have increasingly come under fire for using advertisements that may be deceptive or intended for the solicitation of vulnerable consumers. However, aesthetic surgery is a growing business that relies heavily on advertising to survive. To prevent the use of deceptive advertisements, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons has developed a code of ethics for its physician members. We conducted a study to determine the prevalence of cosmetic surgery advertisements considered objectionable by the lay public. These advertisements were published in the Yellow Pages of the 10 largest U.S. cities. Because all of the advertisements in this study contained the American Society of Plastic Surgeons logo, we also determined whether its members are upholding the ethical code of advertising. We asked a convenience sample of 50 participants to rate 104 advertisements using four yes/no questions derived from the code of ethics and one overall yes/no question regarding whether the advertisement was objectionable. We obtained the mean percentage of "yes" responses for each advertisement, from the total sample, for each question. We found that the study participants felt that 25 percent of the advertisements used images of persons or facsimiles that falsely and deceptively created unjustified expectations of favorable results. The participants responded that 22 percent of the advertisements appealed primarily to the layperson's fears, anxieties, or emotional vulnerabilities. In addition, 18 percent of the advertisements were considered to be objectionable. Discretion is currently left up to physicians as to the ethical nature of their advertisements. Although the majority of American Society of Plastic Surgeons members uphold the ethical code of advertising, there are still a substantial number of published advertisements that the average consumer considers to be in violation of this code. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 109: 1181, 2002.)

(C)2002American Society of Plastic Surgeons

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