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10. 11. 11. - 16:04

Stger wants teens to see psychologists before plastic surgeries

Health Minister Alois Stöger plans to crack down on cosmetic surgery.

The Social Democrat (SPÖ) said today (Thurs) plastic surgeons should be banned from offering their services to teenagers in raffles. He told newspaper Kurier that teens may be allowed to cancel such operation appointments one week in advance without any surcharges. Weekly magazine News report today that under-14s will not be allowed to go under the knife for cosmetic reasons anymore if Stöger’s draft bill finds enough support in parliament. A spokesman for the health ministry announced yesterday it could not be revealed yet when the change of federal law would be debated in parliament.

Stöger told the Kurier he was braced for opposition from plastic surgeons but also certain that most Austrian were in support of his proposals. He added that the creation of a list of plastic surgeries on offer in Austria could be established shortly to clarify the complex situation. The minister reportedly also interested in implementing stricter rules about who is eligible to carry out breast and penis enlargements, Botox injections, liposuctions and other plastic surgeries.

Plastic surgeon Johann Umschaden of the Schwarzl Klinik at Laßnitzhöhe, Styria, criticised that some physicians carry out cosmetic operations after having attended "short workshops". He told the Kurier: "We also found out that people with no medical profession offer procedures like Botox injections. I would appreciate a new law if it prohibits such activities."

One of the most disputed points of Stöger’s draft bill is that everyone aged 18 and younger must consult psychologists before going under the knife at plastic surgery clinics. The minister is now pressed to woo for support among his party’s coalition partner, the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP). Neither the ÖVP nor Austria’s opposition factions have commented on Stöger’s plans so far.

Umschaden criticised the "uncontrolled growth" of plastic surgery offers across Europe. The cosmetic surgeon – who heads an initiative for higher quality standards in the branch – warned that Austria was no exception in this concern. Around 40,000 cosmetic surgeries are taking place in Austria each year, according to today’s Kurier.

Details about Stöger’s cosmetic surgery draft bill emerged a few days after a poll showed that 40 per cent of Austrians opposed his idea of allowing single women and lesbian couples to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Stöger suggested in October that they should not be banned from opting for such procedures anymore. Current restrictions kept Austria from being a modern country in this concern, the left-winger claimed. Pollster Karmasin found that four in 10 Austrian men and women disagreed with Stöger whereas 46 per cent said they supported his plan. Karmasin interviewed 500 people for the survey presented by magazine profil.

Austria’s Roman Catholic Church – which still has an immense influence on politics despite record-low membership figures – is expected to campaign against the IVF draft bill. The ÖVP is tipped to veto Stöger’s suggestions too. The conservative party tried to win over young voters living in urban areas by passing a bill allowing homosexual couples to register their partnerships to obtain more rights considering tax issues and insurance. However, ÖVP leader Michael Spindelegger outraged non-government organisations (NGOs) and groups campaigning for gay rights by revealing why his faction opposed suggestions to let homosexuals marry at registry offices. The foreign minister said an encounter of "regular" wedding parties with gay couples had to be avoided as groups attending the marriage of men and women often featured small children – who should be spared the experience of seeing lesbian and homosexual couples.

SPÖ Minister for Women Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek welcomed Stöger’s IVF law change plan as a "long overdue step towards a more modern approach to family life and legal matters in the 21st century."

Only in August, Stöger angered the ÖVP and the Freedom Party (FPÖ) – the strongest opposition party – by calling for support for an upcoming draft bill ordering all state-run clinics to offer abortions. The minister announced all hospitals which received financial support from the state should provide induced abortions. Stöger said women were currently "not taken seriously" as just 12 private hospitals and 17 public clinics offered such services in Austria.

It may be make or break for Stöger next spring when parliamentary debates will show whether his ideas find sufficient support for changes of current law. The health minister was under fire for several months and asked to step down by rivalling parties of the SPÖ for his inability of agreeing with doctors and insurance companies on how the domestic health sector could be made more efficient and less expensive.

Stöger got considerably little support from fellow SPÖ ministers and party boss Werner Faymann in the discussion – which evaded the spotlight when the Eurozone crisis worsened. Now opposition officials are pouncing on ÖVP Finance Minister Maria Fekter but also on Faymann for their decision-making considering providing debt-stricken Greece and other European Union (EU) countries with credits.

The health minister was seen as nothing but a pawn in the game for a long time. The question whether his controversial suggestions regarding cosmetic surgery and IVF will lead to changes in law could determine his political future.

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