7-Year-Old Has Otoplasty to Avoid Bullying

Posted on April 28, 2011 | by

A 7-year-old girl from South Dakota named Samantha Shaw has had cosmetic surgery to correct her protruding ears in order to divert bullies from making fun of her appearance. The case has ignited a debate about the role of bullying in modern society and the extent to which cosmetic surgery ought to be considered an appropriate response.

Otoplasty, otherwise known as pinning the ears back, is commonly performed on children between the ages of 4 to 14. It involves making an incision on the back of the ear and altering the structure of the underlying cartilage. Otoplasty is a relatively simple surgery, with most patients returning home the same day, and is one of the only plastic surgical procedures performed for young children.

Samantha was frequently bullied by her peers and asked questions by insensitive adults. She’s certainly not the first child to have cosmetic surgery performed due to bullying. A young boy from Long Island by the name of Brian Donoghue had otoplasty for similar reasons last year.

Cosmetic procedures correct deformities that often attract cruel teasing in the schoolyard or unwanted attention in everyday life. Parents often want to help their children avoid the depression, anxiety, and anger that typically follow from bullying.

But there are varying degrees between deformity and normal variation, and as Cheryl Rode, director of clinical operations at the San Diego Center for Children, says, “we never want to hold the victim responsible for the bullying.”

Rode says that what is needed is a continued national conversation that draws from the lived experiences of children like Samantha and Brian. Parents, educators, and school administrators must come together to fight bullying, which has become a growing phenomenon. Thanks to the ubiquity of social networking sites like Facebook, taunts and jeers can now affect students even while they’re at home.