Dr. Manny: Woman who removed ribs to look like cartoon character needs help

It’s very sad when young and otherwise healthy people fall prey to unethical medical practices. This latest story of Pixee Fox, a model who appears to be suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder and recently had ribs removed to achieve her dream of looking like Jessica Rabbit and Tinkerbell, is a true case in point.

Folks who suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder, which is a real, dangerous medical disease, live their lives obsessing about perceived or real flaws. They undergo multiple, unnecessary procedures to correct whatever their perceived imperfection may be, or to complete their vision of what they believe they should look like. Many times, these individuals suffer from deep-rooted symptoms of anxiety and depression. There is a clear need for mental health counseling, and professionals who can help them cope with these symptoms.

In the case of Fox, she has spent more than $120,000 on surgical procedures in the hopes of reaching her “dream” look. These surgeries are elective, and they become unethical when possible risks to the patient are not considered. For the most part, plastic surgeons in the United States are aware of the risks that can be brought unto a patient if they go ahead with planned unnecessary procedures. That is why it is of no surprise to me that Fox initially had trouble finding a surgeon who would perform the procedure. It doesn’t matter how small a procedure is, every single one carries a level of medical risk.

Fox is currently on a quest to break a record for the smallest waist ever recorded and in doing so, has removed six ribs. Rib removal for a smaller waist is not entirely unheard of, but the majority of these stories come from overseas. The ribs have an important protective function in making sure that certain internal organs have a cushion of protection. They make sure your liver, kidneys, spleen and even your lungs don’t suffer from blunt trauma in case of an unexpected accident.

To electively remove these protective ribs from our bodies is highly inappropriate. In addition to the unethical reasons, it’s also a highly invasive surgery which includes general anesthesia and significant recovery time. It is considered too extreme a procedure for cosmetic reasons.

How many times have we read about patients getting severely hurt or deformed while chasing a physical appearance dream they’ve concocted in their heads? What saddens me most about this story is that Fox has more than 150,000 followers on social media who see her as an inspiration. When it comes to these types of extreme behaviors and case studies, the danger of social media is that it only adds fuel to the fire. If Fox is not receiving mental help, it is important for her fans to realize that using social media to encourage her to continue on her quest is not only nuts, but it’s also dangerous and should stop immediately.