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Posted Fri 18 May 2018

If you find yourself thinking the world has gone to the dogs and things just aren’t what they used to be, think again. In the world of plastic surgery, life is a whole lot better than in days of yore.

Gladys Deacon, Duchess of Marlborough, was one of the great beauties of her day. A blue-eyed American lovely, she wowed Europe with her looks. Her portrait was immortalised on the ceiling of Blenheim Palace and her figure used as the model for stone sphinxes. Proust wrote of her exceptional beauty. So why did she disappear and why was she incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital? At 22 years old she had wax injections, a forerunner of today’s dermal fillers.

Dermal fillers today are safe, stable and affordable with predictable and consistent results, but in the Duchess’s day fillers were new and experimental. Paraffin, cod liver oil and beeswax were injected into patients with satisfactory initial results but long term the effect was appalling. Hard skin, swelling, lumps, ulcers and infections were just some of the irreversible complications.

The beautiful duchess was a victim of untested procedures. She was left looking ‘mannequin like and repellent’ and used to warm her face by the fire in an attempt to move the wax beneath her skin. She retreated into life as a recluse, living in a cottage on the estate until forcibly removed to a psychiatric hospital. In 1975 she was found to be still alive in hospital and her story was documented: a long, turbulent and tragic life.

The Duchess was treated long before the concept of Informed Consent which was first mooted in 1957. Nowadays procedures are clearly explained to patients who give permission, fully aware of the choices of treatment available to them.

Had she been alive today, she could have benefited from the excellent, safe and reversible dermal fillers now available: consistent, predictable and painless, with very low risk of complications. In medicine, there are no good old days: today is the very best time to be alive.

Patience Wellbeing, Plastic Surgery Blogger