After a 14-year moratorium, US cosmetic surgeons may now use silicon breast implants. In 1992, the Food and Drug Administration imposed a moratorium on their use because many women had complained that silicone from leaky or faulty implants made them ill. However, several subsequent studies claim that they are safe, although there is always a chance of rupture or infection. “I think this is a huge victory for women,” says Dr David Song, of the University of Chicago, “not just for those seeking cosmetic surgery but also for many reconstructive patients after breast surgery”. It is also a victory for the cosmetic surgery industry. Breast augmentation is the second-most popular procedure in the US, after liposuction, with nearly 365,000 patients in 2005.
The FDA’s decision has savage critics. Dr Sidney Wolfe, of the Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, told the New York Times that the breast implant was “the most defective medical device ever approved by the FDA. The approval makes a mockery of the legal standard that requires ‘reasonable assurance of safety’.” Feminist opponents say that women are supposed to have regular MRIs to check for problems. But these are expensive and many women will not get them.
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