Human Exceptionalism

Deducting Face Lifts in Brazil Devolves Medicine Into Mere Life Style Enablers

I worry about the devolution of medicine from a healing profession into a lifestyle, on demand, technocratic enabling guild.  We see it all around us. Octomom, for example, wasn’t infertile.  The IVF she wanted had nothing to do with medicine in the sense of helping her overcome a disease or disability.  She wanted a lot of babies and she wanted them fast.  Similarly, cosmetic surgeons rake in the dough as their colleagues who do much more important work in primary care make far less money.

Brazil has foolishly (in my view) promoted this transition–and the destructive pursuit of human surface perfection–by making cosmetic procedures tax deductible.  From the story:

Adriana Pires, a human resources manager in Rio de Janeiro, had a pleasant surprise when she prepared her income taxes: the 8,000 reais ($4,575) she paid for breast implants and liposuction are tax-deductible. As Brazilians race to meet today’s filing deadline, the federal government this year for the first time will allow taxpayers to deduct the cost of boob jobs, tummy tucks and any other type of cosmetic surgery. The measure, retroactive to procedures performed since 2004, may spur the 3 billion reais plastic surgery market, the world’s second-largest after the U.S., according to Brazil’s Plastic Surgery Society. “It’s a medical expense like any other and it’s only fair to allow taxpayers to deduct it,” said Pires, 38, adding that she is considering a lipo touch-up this year because of the tax incentive. She had her first plastic surgeries in 2004.

No, it’s not a medical procedure like treating cancer or setting a broken leg.  It is using medical knowledge to enhance lifestyle choices.  And think about the human medical resources diverted from true health care by Brazil’s culture of plastic beauty.  This is early transhumanism, and it is very destructive to human exceptionalism because it elevates mass cultural measures of beauty into criteria that essentially judge human value.  Indeed, that is why people pay so much to not look like their real selves.

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