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Late-night comedian Craig Ferguson once noted that society went off the skids when advertising executives began targeting young consumers in the 1950s. They did this, he explained, so that people would commit to products at a younger age and therefore spend more on a given brand over their lifetimes.

But then everyone got on board, celebrating youth rather than the wisdom and wit that come with age and experience. When it became fashionable and desirable to be young, people became frightened not to be so, he argued. "People started dying their hair, mutilating their faces and bodies in order to look young. But you can't be young forever! That's against the laws of the universe!"

Death is still inevitable, it turns out. But people are doing their best to fight against aging by getting nipped and tucked wherever they can.

I'm one of those people who frown on cosmetic surgery. Ever since I realized my friends were getting nose jobs for their 16th birthdays, I felt that body modification was somehow cheating. And when I see aging celebrities with lips that look like they belong on a duck, I actually cringe.

Hans Madueme, a medical doctor completing a Ph.D. in theological studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, outlined a number of ethical questions surrounding cosmetic surgery in a recent article for The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity.

He notes that, for many of us, cosmetic surgery elicits a reaction of repugnance. Ethicist Leon Kass talks about the "wisdom of repugnance," the idea that our revulsion indicates an intuitive understanding that something is morally awry. Indeed, Michael Jackson's and Joan Rivers's adventures under the knife seem like modern-day morality tales.

But is plastic surgery bad because it's ...

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Is Cosmetic Surgery Immoral?
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March 2010

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