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Wednesday, November 18, 1998 Published at 00:43 GMT


Down's syndrome mother denies vanity

Georgia Bussey is one of thousands of Down's Syndrome children in the UK

The mother of a Down's syndrome baby who put her daughter through three painful operations to improve her appearance has denied acting out of vanity.

The Down's Syndrome Association, while not criticising the couple directly, said it was worried about the sort of message sent by their actions

Kim Gallagher: "I didn't do it to make her look prettier, just to give her a more subtle look."
Kim Gallagher and her husband David said they simply wanted what was best for their daughter Georgia and were worried about her being teased at school.

The little girl's story is told in an ITV documentary, Changing Faces, being screened next Tuesday.

Ms Gallagher, 36, said she agonised for a year before deciding to go ahead with the cosmetic surgery on five-year-old Georgia.

The three operations involved:

  • Her tongue being shortened to stop it protruding.

  • Folds of skin being removed from her eyelids to reduce the "Mongoloid" appearance traditional associated with Down's syndrome.

  • Pinning her ears back to prevent them from sticking out.

    The couple, who live in affluent Pimlico in central London, say the operations have not been purely cosmetic and point out that Georgia's speech and breathing have improved.

    Was in denial after birth

    Ms Gallagher, who says she had trouble accepting Georgia when she was first born and did not want to see her, says she wants to protect her daughter from teasing and taunts when she gets older.

    She told the Daily Mail: "We live in a society that judges people by the way they look.

    "Society is not going to change overnight so Georgia has to fit into society rather than society fitting into the way she is."

    Ms Gallagher said some doctors had resisted her attempts to change her daughter's appearance but others had been very "positive".

    Further operations a possibility

    She said her daughter had not actually been taunted by other children but said she believed it might have happened later in childhood.

    As for further cosmetic surgery, she says they are not ruling it out.

    Carol Boyes from the Down's Syndrome Association: "We don't believe Down's children suffer."
    The Down's Syndrome Association, which champions the rights of people with Down's syndrome, says it fully supports the right of adults to choose plastic surgery.

    'Why hide her condition?'

    But Carol Boyes, director of the association, said: "We are very sad that they feel the need to change their faces in an attempt to hide the fact that they have Down's syndrome.

    "While we will always support them, we do question why parents decide to subject their young children to cosmetic surgery with all the discomfort and risk that any form of surgery entails.

    "What message are parents giving to their child in showing that they would like to hide their child's disability?"

    Ms Boyes said: "Society must learn to accept people with Down's syndrome for what they are - people who happen to have Down's syndrome. Giving in to prejudice and ignorance by hiding the outward signs of the disability is no solution."

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