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JustHere | December 3, 2016

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Rhinoplasty and liposuction drive plastic surgery boom in Qatar

Diana Farid

Young models, flawless features, perfect bodies, extra hair volume, exaggerated eyelashes – looking ‘beautiful’ can no longer be left to cosmetic make-up alone.

plastic-surgery“Given the constant desire to look younger and prettier, females especially in their 30s look up to these ‘role models’ and feel the need to follow the same lifestyle, appearance and looks to be able to fit the social surrounding,” says Dr. Suhaila Gouloum, senior consultant in psychiatry department at Hamad Medical Hospital. “The fact that it’s an affluent country makes it easier for the market to grow. People want to look better and they have the money to finance it.”

Little wonder that a country such as Qatar, where great emphasis is placed on social image, is witnessing a steady growth in demand for plastic surgery. “However compared to other markets I would say that plastic surgery market in Doha is still in its infancy phase. Just like Doha is booming on all different aspects of life, so is the plastic surgery market. Qatar is following the same trend of Saudi Arabia for instance and the market is expected to mature over the next couple of years,” says Dr. Ali Mohamad Charanek, a Doha based consultant plastic surgeon.
While the highest demand is for Rhinoplasty (a.k.a nose job), liposuction and tummy tuck operations are gaining popularity in too, in Qatar.

A quick fix for health or vanity?
“… a plastic surgeon is not a psychiatrist with a blade in his hands. Sometimes the patient only needs a psychiatrist not a surgeon.”

A survey by the Supreme Council of Health at the end of 2012 on a sample of 2,500 nationals from ages 18-64 years revealed that “the vast majority of Qatari adults are overweight, with unhealthy diets and very little physical activity which increases their risk of diabetes.” Despite the stress placed on better diet and physical activity, many do look for quick fixes, pushing the demand up for abdominoplasty (a.k.a tummy tucks) and liposuctions in particular.

“Many of the plastic surgeries done currently are health driven due to increased awareness about health problems like obesity and diabetes. Looking back 15 years ago things were different and people lacked this kind of awareness. But due to the difficulty of changing one’s lifestyle and eating habits over a day, some people opt for the surgery as the quick fix to their lives,” adds Dr. Gouloum

Dr. Charanek says the surgery gives them the push to completely revamp their eating habits instead of waiting for months and maybe years to reach the desired figure, they start the other way around.

Supply begins to meet demand

“Due to the difficulty of changing one’s lifestyle and eating habits over a day, some people opt for the surgery as the quick fix to their lives.”

Until a few years ago, residents sought out surgical procedures abroad, be it for surgeries or even for Botox, collagen fillers, chemical peels and laser surgeries.

Now most of these are available locally. A drive down Al Waab Street is enough to show how popular these clinics are.

“Even Western Europeans prefer to undergo the operations here since it is cheaper than their respective countries, however Eastern Europeans don’t as they have better deals back home,” says Dr. Charanek.

Lately, the obsession to look good has also been seen among men, however in smaller percentages compared to demand among women. The demand is mostly for hair transplant though, he added.

NHIS won’t cover cosmetic surgeries

While the Qatar government used to fully cover the surgeries’ expenses for nationals, “the upcoming New Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) will not cover elective plastic surgery (i.e. chosen by the person for aesthetic rather than medical reasons, even for nationals),” says Dr. Ahmed Makki a Doha-based consultant plastic surgeon.

As per the NHIS communication department: “The aim of the NHIS is to ensure that everyone in Qatar has access to the basic set of high quality healthcare services affordably and through a choice of providers. Hence only reconstructive surgery will be covered as this will be medically necessary, just as any other clinically indicative services which form part of the benefits package.”

How NHS makes the distinction between aesthetic and medical reasons remains to be seen, especially when it comes to popular surgeries like rhinoplasty which may be necessary for those with breathing problems.

The challenges

“The New Health Insurance Scheme will not cover elective plastic surgery.”

The biggest challenge with plastic surgery is meeting the unrealistic expectations of some patients. “In some cases I do prefer to not take it forward if I am sure the outcome will fall short of expectations,” says Dr. Charanek.

Dr. Gouloum says the post-surgical experience is greatly an outcome of how psychologically prepared the patient is. “For example one patient had a strong belief that she will look much prettier post the surgery, and consequently have more self esteem which was not what happened. So she ended up being more depressed.”

Another concern for doctors is operating on surgery-obsessed patients or those suffering from depression. “After all a plastic surgeon is not a psychiatrist with a blade in his hands,” Dr. Charanek adds. “Procedures on such clients should only be undertaken in very rare casesas undergoing the operation isn’t the solution to their problems. Sometimes the patient only needs a psychiatrist not a surgeon. They just need to feel confident about themselves and forget about the operation all together.”

“Moreover there is a minority who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder; a mental illness in which the patient is dissatisfied with multiple areas of their bodies. They perceive body flaws which results in them going for multiple plastic surgeries to cure their depression. These people need significant psychiatric help rather than surgeries which don’t satisfy their needs either,” Dr. Gouloum explains.

Islam and plastic surgery

The popularity of plastic surgery in a culturally and religiously conservative country like Qatar is quite ironical. Aesthetic surgical procedures are a taboo. In the Holy Quran, Allah mentions the words of Satan saying: “And I will mislead them, and I will arouse in them [sinful] desires, and I will command them so they will slit the ears of cattle, and I will command them so they will change the creation of Allah.” “And whoever takes Satan as an ally instead of Allah has certainly sustained a clear loss.” (Quran: Suret Al Nesaa 4:119). In the light of this verse, Islamic scholars claim that cosmetic and plastic surgery for the purpose of beautifying and adornment is impermissible.

Have you been tempted to undergo nips and tucks? What is your take on it?

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