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Book and New Media Reviews
July 2001

Cosmetic Surgery: The Cutting Edge of Commercial Medicine in America

Author Affiliations


by Deborah A. Sullivan, 233 pp, with 7 black-and-white illus, $22.00, ISBN 0-8135-2860-7, New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University Press, 2000.

Arch Dermatol. 2001;137(7):977-978. doi:

This is a socioeconomic history of the current boom in cosmetic surgery. In Sullivan's view, the crucial actors are not patients or individual physicians. Rather, the interplay of professional medical associations has guided the evolution of beauty-enhancing surgery in America. Changes in social mores have occurred not spontaneously but in tandem with the loosening of professional strictures against the performance of so-called unnecessary procedures. The public and even governmental bodies have deferred to pioneering physician groups. Like quarreling children, these physician groups have aggressively advanced their competing interests, and each has looked for allies among patients and regulators. Money, glamour, and prestige have accrued to the victors.