Nurses Get Enhanced in Prague – No Charge.

As reported by the New York Times, medical practices in Prague are offering free surgical enhancements to nurses as an employment incentive.  One nurse opted for breast augmentation and liposuction, free of charge.  

The piece raises some interesting ethical questions: While the procedures could certainly be beneficial to individual nurses in the short term, would such a practice harm the nursing profession as a whole?  

According to reporter Dan Bilefsky, nurses in the region “insist they are under enormous pressure to look good in a society where attractiveness is often as highly prized as clinical skills.”  Critics argue that the incentives could promote an idealized body image for nurses, in a profession already suffering from misconceptions about technical competence.  A spokeswoman from the Czech nurses association argues that nurses are still perceived as “low level workers” with little to offer besides manual labor.  Nurses after all, aren’t intended to be models, but caregivers that provide an enormous benefit to the medical profession and the public they serve.  A misplaced emphasis on their physical appearance could undermine public perceptions of their competence and value.

Still, others see no ethical problem; perhaps breast augmentation or rhinoplasty is analogous to employee discounts at a retailer, employee vacation packages, or other career perks.  

The supposed ethical problems brought by these surgical incentive programs probably shouldn’t be directed at the programs alone, but rather, toward the sexism and discrimination that underlie them.