Once upon a time, there was a very fine New Zealand-born surgeon called Archibald Mc-Indoe who became a renowned pioneer in the field of reconstructive plastic surgery.

Dr McIndoe especially felt the need to help RAF pilots whose faces (and bodies) had suffered dreadful burns and damage in wartime combat. The French had had a tradition of recognising a special category of combatant known as “the broken-faced ones” – les casses-gueules – but it took this Kiwi doctor to make the big strides in plastic surgery in the 1940s, rebuilding the victims’ appearances, and encouraging their confidence in re-engaging socially with the world.

McIndoe died in 1960 – and a statue to him was erected in East Grinstead in 2014.

Then, as time passed, the techniques of plastic surgery began to gain much wider application. Eventually, surgery with an urgent medical and humanitarian purpose expanded into another field – that of cosmetic enhancement.

Plastic surgery today embraces not just the reconstruction of bodily parts after accident or illness, but also the greater preservation of youthful looks for more non-urgent reasons. Almost any celebrity you see on the screen who looks amazingly youthful for her 60, 70 or maybe 80 years – and it will usually be a “her” – will have benefited from “work” on her appearance via cosmetic surgery.

Who am I to judge? I had a touch of Botox myself some years ago to diminish the frown lines on my forehead – my excuse was that I didn’t want to look like a crosspatch. But it is an undoubted fact that what was pioneered for medical reasons has been widely expanded for a less exalted purpose.

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