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Books, Journals, New Media
August 15, 2001

Cosmetic SurgeryCosmetic Surgery: The Cutting Edge of Commercial Medicine in America

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available


Copyright 2001 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2001American Medical Association


by Deborah A. Sullivan, 233 pp, paper, $22, ISBN 0-8135-2860-7, New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 2001.

JAMA. 2001;286(7):848-849. doi:10.1001/jama.286.7.848-JBK0815-3-1

Approximately half of all US women and one fourth of US men dislike some aspect of their appearance, and more and more of them are turning to cosmetic surgery to correct the perceived defects. In Cosmetic Surgery, sociologist Deborah A. Sullivan explores this phenomenon and its implications for the commercialization of medicine in the United States.

Sullivan regards cosmetic surgery as a modern body custom. Like the binding of women's feet in ancient China or the black curves and spirals carved on Maori faces, these surgical changes "are an effort to achieve a desired identity and connection with a reference group." Certainly, as the author points out, our culture rewards those whose appearance most closely approximates the ideal with social, psychological, and economic benefits. However, this ideal is ever-changing, defined by a fickle media saturated with the latest desirable body images.

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