The parents of a girl with Down syndrome have caused a public outcry in the U.K. by subjecting their daughter to cosmetic surgery to improve her appearance.
Georgia Bussey underwent "radical and painful" cosmetic surgery three times by age 5 so she could "fit in" with her peers, the U.K.'s Daily Mail reported Sunday.
Parents of another girl with Down syndrome told the paper that they were also considering altering her appearance in the future so she could be more "accepted.”
Critics in the U.K. slammed the parents, with some even claiming the procedures were tantamount to child abuse. However, the parents hit back, saying that no one complained when "normal" children had their ears pinned back.
"Why should it be any different for a Downs child?" asked Georgia’s mother Kim Bussey.
Bussey said she and her husband David were motivated by love for their child and deliberated for a year before putting her through the ordeal.
In the first procedure, Georgia's tongue was reduced to stop it from protruding, according to the paper. Then folds of skin were removed from the inner corners of her eyes to take away the "slantiness characteristic" of Down syndrome. Finally, she had surgery to stop her ears from sticking out.
Bussey said society often judges people on the way they look.
"Society is not going to change overnight – so Georgia has to fit into society, rather than society fitting into the way she is," she said.
Another couple, Laurence and Chelsea Kirwan, told the newspaper they were considering surgical procedures for their two-year-old Down syndrome daughter, Ophelia.
Dr. Laurence Kirwan, a world-renowned plastic surgeon with offices in the U.K. and Connecticut, said they would make that decision if Ophelia reached the age of 18 and was being unfairly judged on how she looked.
The mother of a Down's syndrome baby who put her daughter through three painful operations to improve her appearance has denied acting out of vanity.
The Down's Syndrome Association, while not criticising the couple directly, said it was worried about the sort of message sent by their actions
Kim Gallagher: "I didn't do it to make her look prettier, just to give her a more subtle look."
Kim Gallagher and her husband David said they simply wanted what was best for their daughter Georgia and were worried about her being teased at school.
The little girl's story is told in an ITV documentary, Changing Faces, being screened next Tuesday.
Ms Gallagher, 36, said she agonised for a year before deciding to go ahead with the cosmetic surgery on five-year-old Georgia.
The three operations involved:
Her tongue being shortened to stop it protruding.
Folds of skin being removed from her eyelids to reduce the "Mongoloid" appearance traditional associated with Down's syndrome.
Pinning her ears back to prevent them from sticking out.
The couple, who live in affluent Pimlico in central London, say the operations have not been purely cosmetic and point out that Georgia's speech and breathing have improved.
Was in denial after birth
Ms Gallagher, who says she had trouble accepting Georgia when she was first born and did not want to see her, says she wants to protect her daughter from teasing and taunts when she gets older.
She told the Daily Mail: "We live in a society that judges people by the way they look.
"Society is not going to change overnight so Georgia has to fit into society rather than society fitting into the way she is."
Ms Gallagher said some doctors had resisted her attempts to change her daughter's appearance but others had been very "positive".
Further operations a possibility
She said her daughter had not actually been taunted by other children but said she believed it might have happened later in childhood.
As for further cosmetic surgery, she says they are not ruling it out.
Carol Boyes from the Down's Syndrome Association: "We don't believe Down's children suffer."
The Down's Syndrome Association, which champions the rights of people with Down's syndrome, says it fully supports the right of adults to choose plastic surgery.
'Why hide her condition?'
But Carol Boyes, director of the association, said: "We are very sad that they feel the need to change their faces in an attempt to hide the fact that they have Down's syndrome.
"While we will always support them, we do question why parents decide to subject their young children to cosmetic surgery with all the discomfort and risk that any form of surgery entails.
"What message are parents giving to their child in showing that they would like to hide their child's disability?"
Ms Boyes said: "Society must learn to accept people with Down's syndrome for what they are - people who happen to have Down's syndrome. Giving in to prejudice and ignorance by hiding the outward signs of the disability is no solution."
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