Informed consent in Italy—Traditional versus the law: A gordian knot

Emanuela Turillazzi, Margherita Neri, Irene Riezzo, Paola Frati, Vittorio Fineschi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Italian law no. 86 of 5 June 2012, which establishes a set of rules on the matter of breast implants, came into effect in July 2012. The law is at the center of a widespread and animated cultural debate that in recent years has been taking place in Italy.

Discussion: The fundamental prohibition imposed by the law concerns the age limit. Breast implants for exclusively aesthetic purposes are allowed only if the legal age (18 years) has been reached. This prohibition does not apply in cases of severe congenital malformations certified by a physician operating within the National Health Service or by a public health care institution. The legal imposition of an age limit raises a number of perplexities: one at a bioethical level and one that is strictly juridical. In fact, it is impossible to deal with this issue unless the wider debate concerning the self-determination and autonomy of underage patients in biomedical matters is considered. It appears, then, that the issue is again exclusively related to the peculiarity of cosmetic surgery, which when aimed at correcting ‘‘only’’ the pathologic experiences of selfimage, does not acquire the dignity of therapy. If, however, the improvement of self-image serves to achieve a better psycho-emotional balance and favors the development of social relations undermined by evident physical defects, age restrictions can be disregarded.

Summary: The authors believe the real risk is that the law imposed by the Italian state is based on assumptions and preformed value judgments. Furthermore, in the understanding of needs, legislation often is biased toward objective biophysical problems without attaching due importance to subjective psychological and social problems. While acknowledging the seriousness of the issue, the authors do not agree with the legislature’s rigidity. However, plastic surgeons must form a plan for addressing the concerns about breast implants and evaluating whether they are appropriate for adolescents, taking into account the unique psychological and developmental considerations of adolescent cosmetic surgery patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)759-764
Number of pages6
JournalAesthetic Plastic Surgery
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Breast implants
  • Informed consent
  • Italian law
  • Minors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Medicine(all)


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