Living in Vancouver, I didn’t think too much of the popular circle lenses and colored eye contact lenses culture until I moved to southern Maine where Asians and Southeast Asians were sparse and few in between. Blue and green eyes were no longer as coveted—they were the norm.
With the increase in market demand in Asia for different shades of hair color, fairer skin and lighter eye pigments, it is no surprise that the cosmetic surgery world has evolved alongside with the consumer demand.
Unlike the scientific community of World War II in Nazi concentration camps where those imprisoned were used for scientific projects to promote the genes for an Aryan race, today’s scientific advancement is being pushed forward by a consumer demand for lighter eye pigments. How ironic!
Dr. Gregg Homer, a US doctor, is trying to pioneer a laser treatment that changes patients’ eye color. How does it work? A computerized scanning system will take a picture of the iris, pinpointing out areas to treat. Once the process is finished, a laser is then fired, hitting each individual spot separately. This pattern continues several times over the course of 20 seconds so that the pigment on the surface of the iris is agitated.
According to BBC, “after the first week of treatment, the eye colour turns darker as the tissue changes its characteristics.Then the digestion process starts, and after a further one to three weeks the blueness appears. Since the pigment—called melanin—does not regenerate, the treatment is irreversible.”
Other eye experts have expressed reservations: “The pigment is there for a reason. If the pigment is lost you can get problems such as glare or double vision,” said Larry Benjamin, a consultant eye surgeon at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in the UK.”
The ethical questions behind allowing this irreversible practice to exist is a question that society should pose to regulators of medical ethics. The harms could greatly outweigh the benefits, especially since there have not yet been enough clinical trials. Additionally, the ramifications for culture and identity could become complicated.
In a few years, will this treatment be as common as laser eye surgery? After all, it only takes twenty seconds of your time to change your eye color permanently.