Is Celebrity Plastic Surgery Speculation Ethical?

When model Hailey Bieber and her husband, singer Justin Bieber, recently made headlines for threatening to sue a plastic surgeon over some TikTok videos, it raised some interesting questions. It all happened when a Los Angeles-based plastic surgeon made a TikTok video suggesting which plastic surgery procedures Hailey Bieber may have had over the years. Bieber denied having any work done and asked that the videos be removed and that a public statement be issued retracting the surgeon's claims or face legal action.

For his part, the surgeon said he was not trying to cause harm to Bieber, but to educate the public on plastic surgery. Still, it raises the question: Do surgeons (or anyone else) have the right to publicly speculate about a celebrity's (or an average Joe or Jane's) possible plastic surgery?

Plastic surgeon Dr. Ryan Mitchell of Henderson, Nevada, says it's a complicated situation.

"On the one hand, in this particular case, we are talking about a public figure," Mitchell says. "To some degree they open themselves up to this type of public scrutiny, but on the other hand, it's pure speculation on the surgeon's part, and he shouldn't be implying or suggesting an individual has had work done without their consent. Especially on a public forum he's using to make money."

Mitchell says speculating about celebrity plastic surgery isn't a new thing; after all, just look at the tabloids over the decades. But even despite the wide de-stigmatization of plastic surgery, some celebrities are more sensitive to it than others. In the case of Bieber, where her modeling career is based on her facial appearance, it makes sense that she would be more likely to speak out against false claims.

"What would have made more sense for the surgeon to do is to say, 'Look at this beautiful face - I can help you achieve these features.'," Mitchell says. "That gives patients inspiration for their own procedures, without implying that the model in question - in this case Bieber - has had the work done herself."

Mitchell says surgeons should be careful to publicly imply that patients - public or private - have had work done, as it could have repercussions for their career, as it may for Bieber's.

"If your career is based on your natural beauty, you may not want rumors about plastic surgery procedures swirling around out there," Mitchell says. "Whether or not Bieber has had plastic surgery is ultimately her business, and she has every right to ask for the videos to be taken down."

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