Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nip/Sucker: Reality TV as advertising

On the heels of a recent decision immunizing a radio station from liability for the professionals highlighted/advertised by its programs, the LAT runs a story on the promotional effects of reality TV for doctor-stars, and the skewed perceptions of those doctors' expertise and the risks of plastic surgery produced thereby:
Even as shows such as "Doctor 90210," "Extreme Makeover" and "The Swan" have thrust telegenic doctors into the limelight, it remains unclear what standards networks use in selecting the physicians -- or how closely they check credentials.

.... Meanwhile, their rank-and-file colleagues and the American Medical Assn. are growing worried that reality-TV doctors and the producers of the shows distort what plastic surgeons do by over-hyping the results and downplaying the pain, complications and risks associated with surgery. The shows and their celebrity doctors, they contend, mislead consumers into thinking cosmetic surgery is not much more complicated than buying a new dress.

"TV is looking for the best doctors who will show well and get ratings. They have to have looks and personality," said Dr. Valerie J. Ablaza, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Montclair, N.J. "But there are no criteria for evaluating their medical credentials. That's a big problem."

.... In the first study documenting the influence of shows such as "Extreme Makeover," researchers found that reality TV shows directly influence first-time patients who decide to have cosmetic plastic surgery. The study was published in the July issue of the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

"These folks were really avid watchers and believed what they saw on TV was a reflection of reality," said Dr. Richard A. D'Amico, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and chief of the department of plastic surgery at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, N.J.

In the less enthralling real world, however, results are not always predictable. A 2004 study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery of procedures performed in office-based surgical facilities found that serious complications occurred in one in 298 cases and deaths in one in 51,459 cases.

.... Adds D'Amico about celebrity TV doctors in general: "TV doctors, to me, are the most dangerous, because they may or may not have the true credentials or the expertise. . . . But the public perceives they have credibility because they are on TV."

No comments: