Falling Victim to Medical Tourism
General Practitioner, trainer, medical entrepreneur
Recently a colleague texted me, on behalf of a friend's mother; she had arrived distressed in Melbourne calling in a favour from her Cosmetic-Doctor-friend for an urgent recommendation for a Melbourne-based Facial Plastic Surgeon.
Unfortunately, this lady who had undergone a Neck-Lift in Thailand, on her return flight was alarmed by a pulsating mass developing in her neck; what appeared on the circulated photo to be a very large haematoma! Yikes!
Adding to her distress, the Emergency Department that day had refused to drain it, suggesting this procedure was best performed by a private plastic surgeon. Here are a few phone numbers and a referral, good luck!
Similar stories of victim’s getting life threatening infections or disfigured by medical-tourism-gone-wrong doesn’t seem to be deflating a booming industry - with the largest growth being in South East Asia.
An estimated 15 000 women each year undergoing cosmetic procedures overseas often fooled by glossy websites or brochures when taking on more risks than they realize when they go overseas for cosmetic surgery.
“I have seen botched breast augmentations and tummy tucks that patients seriously regret” says Dr Michael Yuanev, Reconstructive Breast Surgeon from Breast & Body Clinic.
“If you are thinking of going overseas for surgery, I would strongly advise you visit Smart Traveller and seek out only internationally accredited facilities before you commit – make sure you are fully satisfied you have the appropriate insurance and information well before you travel.”
While post-operative complications like haematomas do occur and can be considered “bad luck”, obviously flying immediately post-surgery substantially increases your risk of vascular complications like haematomas (and especially thrombo-embolic clots!)
But the real unanticipated “bad luck” is finding a surgeon to help you right now when you are in a different country to the surgeon who performed the operation.
Continuity of care is vital, even in surgery. People forget that surgery is just one third of the job; appropriate pre-operative assessment and good post-operative care are just as important to achieve a positive surgical experience.
Finding a surgeon to take on the responsibility of someone else's complication or mistake is like taking responsibility for someone else’s tax bill- it's bad enough you have to deal with your own!
Now the unexpected additional costs (and stress) of finding a private surgeon willing to take on her complication, will likely mean her cheap Thailand holiday Neck Lift, just cost her more than she bargained.
Another avoidable + expensive Medical Tourism regret?
Australian Broadcasting Corporation. PM: Young Australian women going overseas for cosmetic surgery. 21 January 2013. Available at www.abc.net.au/ pm/ content/ 2013/ s3673600.htm [Accessed 4 November 2014].