Selling Plastic Surgery?

Cosmetic surgeons have always seemed like the used car salesmen of doctors — they profit off women (and men) not liking parts of their bodies and being willing to pay to change them. But have you ever wondered if these crafty folks try to charm and sell patients on treatments that they hadn’t considered before? Melanie Berliet, a Vanity Fair writer, went undercover to test her hypothesis that plastic surgeons try to sell additional procedures to patients that they don’t “need.” The 5’9″, 120-pound 27-year-old, who wears a size 34B bra, went into the consultations under the guise of wanting breast augmentation. Surprisingly, the three surgeons had different reactions to her physique, but all of them recommended procedures she hadn’t originally asked for. Find out the deets, after the jump… NYC-based Dr. David P. Rapaport recommended liposuction for Berliet’s outer thighs, love handles and banana rolls — i.e. that bit of flesh that peeks out beneath underwear. [That has a name?! — Editor] He told her the lipo could be done at the same time as the breast augmentation and offered her a computer-generated 3-D image of the outcome of her surgeries. He suggested silicone implants and said her breasts were asymmetrical, so she would need a slightly bigger implant for her left breast. Rapaport told Berliet that a full C is the “Promised Land for most people.” Um, ‘kay. In Berliet’s case, her end result would have been a large C or a small D, for the hefty price of $13,000.

But Rapaport wasn’t done with assessment! “Do you want me to talk about your face?” he asked. Dr. Rapaport then recommended Botox injections for her forehead; Restylane for her “retruded” upper lip, and suggested “fixing” her chicken-pox scars, moles, and freckles. He also recommended reducing the bump in her nose, which would have cost $11,000. The grand total for all of his recommendations would have cost Berliet $33,000. Oh, and he also suggested lightening her hair. Thanks Vidal Sassoon!

Doctor number two, Elliott Heller, based in New Jersey, told Berliet her right breast hung a little lower than the left, and then said, “Okay, now talk to me about the nose. Tell me what you don’t like about your nose.” Berliet played along and said that it looked like it had been broken and had healed crooked. Heller agreed, saying the little bump detracted from the harmony of her face. When Berliet asked about Botox and Restylane, Dr. Heller says she looked good and that neither treatments would last. Besides, “your face is very attractive.” He didn’t recommend lipo either, but silicone implants would cost $6,800 and the nose job would run $5,500. He also offered her 3-D imaging of her results. Clearly Dr. Heller’s greed pales in comparison to Dr. Rapaport’s.

The third surgeon, Dr. Joseph A. Racanelli in Brooklyn, admirably refused to make suggestions about procedures until Berliet said what was bugging her about her body. Berliet decided to focus her critique on her boobs and nose, about which Racanelli suggested implants that would take her to a full C, and that he could do something about her nose’s “dorsal hump” and “bulbous tip,” for a grand total of $17,500. But when Berliet asked if she could have an image of what the results might look like, Racanelli refused. “There’s a way to image, and it’s a very successful marketing tool,” he told her. “I do not do it, and the reason is: the only person who knows what your nose is going to look like after surgery is God.” Does that mean if she ends up with a hole in her face when her nose used to be, God willed it to be so? .

I wonder how many other patient’s self-esteem Dr. Rapaport has dismantled, like Berliet’s. But it’s refreshing to know that some doctors, like Dr. Heller, don’t try to force procedures on their patients. He reminded me a bit of my dermatologist who on more than one occasion has told me my skin is beautiful, and he doesn’t want to see me again for another six months. (I, like a lot of acne sufferers, has an intense fear that one day my skin will regress.) Dr. Racanelli surprisingly left the decisions up to Berliet. I guess he doesn’t have as high a rent as Dr. Rapaport. []