Addicted to Plastic Surgery

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The recent death of Dennis Avner, 54, raises questions about the price of extensive plastic surgery. Avner was listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as having the most body modification, and one look at him created a memory never to be forgotten.

Called, “the stalking cat,” or simply “cat man,” Avner had extensive tattooing, mostly tiger stripes (including his face), permanent fang implants, assorted inserts to give him a muzzle, a cleft lip and studs where whiskers could attach. He sought to emulate a tiger and sometimes wore cat-eye contact lenses and a robotic tail. Other modifications included pointing the ears and elongating his earlobes, an adjustment of his nasal septum to flatten his nose and silicone injections to round other areas of the face.

On November 5th of this year, Mr. Avner’s body was found at his home. No official cause of death has been released, but news reports say that “suicide is suspected.”

Body dysmorphic disorder is a compulsion to alter one’s body shape and is related to anorexia or other disorders where appearance becomes an overriding concern. Plastic surgeons are taught to look for this in their patients, but many of Avner’s “body mods” were done by tattoo artists trained in this craft and are not classified as plastic surgery.

An article from 2005 quotes the director of the Center for Bioethics at Albany Medical College in NY. Glenn McGee expressed concern about the extent of Avner’s modifications at the time and said, “Cosmetic surgery is a practice based on informed consent" that needs to balance the risks with the benefits. McGee believed Stalking Cat was seriously risking his health by undergoing so many surgeries.

We don’t know for sure it was suicide, but a death at 54 is certainly a matter for concern. And while Avner cannot be said to be addicted to plastic surgery, there are certainly those who cannot seem to stop. A tuck here, a nip there, some injections… every procedure satisfies for a while, and then a new operation is sought for a newly perceived flaw.

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