The state health department launched the service at a clinic in the capital, Chennai, on Wednesday, with the full support of its state health minister, C Vijaya Baskar. “Why should beauty treatments not be available to the poor?” he asked. “If we don’t offer [the procedure for free], they may opt for dangerous methods or take huge loans for it.”
Previously, the clinic had already been providing reconstructive surgery for breast cancer patients, but this is the first time it's offered services to people who wanted to change the size or appearance of their breasts for health or other cosmetics reasons. Going forward, the clinic will also be providing free cleft-lip surgeries for children, and hand transplants, among other procedures.
One former public health director for the state, Dr. S Elango, isn’t crazy about the new program. “[It] sounds populist, but it is not an ideal public health program,” he told the Times of India, per The Guardian. “State funds are required for emerging non-communicable diseases and communicable diseases. It is sad that we are now focusing on beauty instead of life-saving surgeries.”
Dr. V Ramadevi, the head of plastic surgery at the clinic, argued otherwise. “There is a psychological benefit,” she said of her patients, some of whom have sought breast reductions to alleviate back and shoulder pain, and others who’ve pursued the surgeries for a boost in confidence. “Many girls who have larger breasts don’t like to go out. There is no reason this surgery should be restricted from the poor.” And if it'll help protect those same people from the dangers of cheap black-market plastic surgery, then it does become a viable public health program by association.