Over the last decade, the stigma attached to receiving voluntary cosmetic surgery has faded significantly. More men and women are seeking out qualified surgeons and doctors to perform an array of procedures, from facial fillers to full body contouring. But a new trend has emerged in cosmetic surgery that presents some cause for concern. Medical tourism – the process of traveling to a country’s outside one’s resident country to receive voluntary medical care – is an increasingly popular choice for those wishing to undergo a cosmetic surgery without the high cost. Individuals have an opportunity to save hundreds to thousands, even with the expenses of travel are added in, but the true cost of medical tourism for cosmetic surgery overseas is far higher. Travelers looking for their next cosmetic fix should heed these warnings before hitting the road or the skies.
Unclear Accreditation in Other Countries
Anyone can do a quick search on the Internet for a cosmetic surgeon anywhere in the world, and clinics that target medical tourists make up a large portion of the results. Advertisements for clinics overseas can be flashy, drawing in the attention of anyone looking for a minor procedure or a major surgery with ease. However, the marketing tactics of cosmetic practices that speak directly to individuals wanting to save money by traveling overseas often leave out an important aspect of the process – provider qualification and accreditation.
The majority of highly developed countries take great care to provide guidance and regulation in the cosmetic surgery arena. Within the UK, any medical professional offering cosmetic surgery services to the masses is required to be registered with the General Medical Council, or GMC. This provides transparency in the selection process for potential patients, as well as a safeguard from ill-trained or otherwise unqualified surgeons in the cosmetic field. The United States also provides an accreditation system for cosmetic surgeons practicing within the country, making it simple to find and vet a provider. Unfortunately, cosmetic surgeons or other clinical staff in other countries may not be held to the same high standard, which leaves medical tourism patients exposed to a high degree of risk when traveling for a procedure.
Complications with Aftercare
With the help of a strong online presence, several clinics overseas have enlisted the help of travel agents and medial tourism brokers who work solely for the purpose of potential cosmetic surgery patients. These brokers arrange everything from the flight and itinerary to the consultation and procedure appointment with the provider. While convenient, aftercare for patients and the effects of travel shortly after a procedure are not always included or explained in the process.
Nearly all cosmetic procedures require some degree of recovery, especially those that involve a major surgery. For some patients, the need for aftercare involves having some assistance with dressing, bathing, or generally getting around, while others simply require help with cleaning wounds to prevent infection. Getting on a flight or taking an extended ride in the car shortly after a major cosmetic surgery does not lend itself to getting the care one needs post procedure. Complications can quickly arise, including blood clots that can be fatal or wound infections that lead to long-term illness. In a recent survey conducted by the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgeons, nearly 40% of providers responded that they had treated a patient through the national health system because of a complication caused by receiving a cosmetic surgery overseas.
Above and beyond provider qualification concerns and issues surrounding appropriate aftercare, receiving a voluntary cosmetic surgery in another country also brings up complex legal situations. A representative from a medical negligence specialist team in the UK explains that cosmetic surgery overseas complicates the process of bringing a civil or criminal case against a provider when negligence occurs. “If patients experience poor-quality treatment which results in an adverse outcome, a legal claim is often the next viable step for recourse. However, the process that must be followed in order to pursue complaints and receive legal guidance or compensation is not as straightforward when the issue extends beyond country borders.”
When there is no feasible way to receive compensation or other remedies for negligent care from a cosmetic surgeon in another country, patients are forced to deal with their circumstances alone. That often comes with a steep financial burden, emotional challenges, and a drastic reduction in the quality of live one can lead.
Not all cosmetic surgeons in other countries pose these risks to patients, but the complications that can arise from receiving care overseas are real. Before opting for cosmetic surgery abroad, consider these issues and how they may eat away at any cost savings realized upfront.