A coroner has ruled this week that the death of local drama student Alexandra (Alix) Mills was an unusual event over which there was “no human control”. It was the unintended consequence of an 8 hour operation under general anaesthetic. See here, here and here for news coverage of the verdict.

What is most tragic about this story is not so much the fact that this bright young woman died following surgery – that is of course sad, and so sad that I am afraid to look it fully in the face… but complications and death are an inevitable risk with such procedures.

What is most tragic is that the surgery was entirely voluntary and unnecessary. It is an operation that Miss Mills had been “adamant” that she wanted, right from the age of ten.

Why? Why?

Because she suffered from a slight overbite and was teased at school – and the teasing was obviously horrendous, to make such a young girl set her heart on surgery. Because she wanted to be an actress and a singer, and knew she would never make it with even a slight cosmetic “defect”. Because in this world, any deviation from the artificial ideal of beauty is ugliness, which is akin to sinfulness and which is unforgivable. Even at the age of ten.

See this website for some examples of the kind of cosmetic “defects” that this surgery is designed to “correct”.

According to her surgeon, Miss Mills was an “attractive young lady” who suffered only from a slightly prominent chin and an anterior open-bite, meaning her upper incisors did not overlap the lower incisors. Yet she demanded, and was given, surgery. And it was fatal.

And the coroner said… No one was to blame.

I blame the patriarchy.

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