There is a truly disturbing story recently about model Pixee Fox who had six ribs removed in an attempt to look like a real life cartoon and break the record for smallest waist in the world. While many view this as a textbook case of Body Dysmorphic Disorder (or just plain disgusting), what was most shocking is that Fox was able to get a physician to do this surgery.
Fox said that this grotesque procedure was the fulfillment of a long-standing dream to look like “pin-up cartoons like Jessica Rabbit.” I had assumed that whoever did the surgery would hide in obscurity from both public opinion and any relevant medical review board. However, Dr. Barry Eppley, an Indiana surgeon, not only has gone public to take credit but defended the practice. Eppley said that rib removal is largely “an urban myth” but he has made it a reality and removed even more ribs than Fox in another patient. In what is a truly dubious statement, Eppley said “It just seems extreme because it is the only plastic surgery other than liposuction [that removes] normal body parts, so it seems extreme.” No, Doc, that is not the only reason it seems extreme. It is extreme because you are in the business of removing ribs for clearly troubled individuals and calling it medicine.
Yet, Eppley insists that only the 10th rib covers “a bit of the kidney” and “[i]n the typical person you’re not losing protections of your organs.” He added “I wouldn’t recommend it for an athlete though.” Really, otherwise he would recommend it?
Fox has reportedly spent more than $120,000 on surgical procedures, suggesting a serious disorder in my mind but not enough for Eppley to cut out her ribs.
I fail to see how such an operation is ethical for a physician. It seems to me that such a removal would create health dangers. However, accepting Eppley’s account that there is no real risk, there is part of me that says (while disgusting) this is ultimately a matter for the individual (as will other surgeries from studs to horns to implants). My problem is that there are some surgeries that seriously raise the question of the sanity of the person for a doctor. Nothing requires a doctor to accept such an operation and I view this type of work to be perfectly horrific.
Yet, returning to the individual choice question, do you agree that this should left to individuals if there is no medical danger in having so many ribs removed?