Social Media in Plastic Surgery

Recent increased exposure to medical procedures through social media has not escaped the plastic surgery world. In fact, plastic surgeons were among the first group of physicians to create websites for their practices. But, as the desire to have access to this kind of information grows among our patient population, the questions regarding what constitutes acceptable use also continually grow. When you find a plastic surgeon offering snapchat videos of live surgery offering jokes and juggling as he informs his followers about surgical procedures, it becomes clear that the line between acceptable and unacceptable can be blurry.

Dr. Fine has a special interest in this area as a past chair of the ethics committee for The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and recently wrote an article published in “Plastic Surgery News” in reply to discussion initiated on this topic the month prior. In it, he starts with our guiding principles:

“According to section 1 of the ASPS Code of Ethics, ‘The principle objective of the medical profession is to render services to humanity with full respect for human dignity. Physicians should merit the confidence of patients entrusted to their care, rendering to each a full measure of service and devotion.”

With dignity as our founding principle, how do we keep this principle consistent over time as the practices of medicine and our social norms continues to evolve?  It is clear that the demand for easily accessible forms of media is increasing, but, regardless of patient consented use of images or video, the fact that a patient has consented does not necessarily make it permissible.

“While the social norms of electronic sharing among millennials have certainly broken many traditional boundaries, as a specialty we represent a professional social circle. As a professional Society, it’s both our prerogative and responsibility to define standards of conduct with more thoughtfulness than simply following the currents of popular culture. Snapchat broadcasts by fellow plastic surgeons that elicit such a relatively uniform, visceral sense of unease among many serve at the very least as a call to action to evaluate these activities in the context of our codes of professional conduct.”

Snapchat, youtube, facebook, and instagram all offer avenues for education, for entertainment, and for marketing. It is clear that media used can include aspects of education while also offering entertainment, but it is not clear that all media is acceptable as long as it has an educational aspect.

“Our proposal would be to attempt to draw a line at combining surgery and entertainment activities. I would define entertainment activities as including, but not limited to: singing, dancing, telling jokes, juggling and dressing in costume. I would not limit plastic surgeons’ ability to do these things, but I would limit or restrict these activities from appearing in the same frame as, or in close proximity to, a patient or a body part of a patient. I believe it’s not professional to use patients or patient body parts as props for entertainment.”

With this in mind, he suggests it be left to input and a vote offered by the ASPS Ethics Committee.

What would you say? What is your vote?

Plastic Surgery News

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