For those who are in the market for a new nose, a tummy tuck, or another physique-changing procedure, medical tourism may be a well-known term. The process of traveling to another country to receive treatment ‘or in this case, a cosmetic surgery’ is becoming more common for thousands of travelers each year.
The rise in cosmetic surgery abroad is based on the idea that individuals have an opportunity to save hundreds to thousands for the cost of the procedure, even after the expenses associated with traveling to another country are added into the mix.
Unfortunately, medical tourism for the purpose of getting a fresh face or a more toned body comes with a variety of risks of which travelers should be aware of.
Several cosmetic treatment facilities advertise online, drawing potential patients in with small price tags compared to their resident country, quick turnaround times for a variety of procedures, and state of the art equipment and techniques.
Unfortunately, marketing to the masses often leaves out critical information that should inform individuals’ decisions whether traveling abroad for voluntary surgery is beneficial in the long run. Surgeon and facility accreditation and country-specific regulations are often left off the flashy online advertisements.
Developed countries have strict procedures by which cosmetic surgeons and clinics must abide. In the UK, for instance, providers must be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) as a way to protect patients from fraudulent practices within the medical field.
The GMC provides standards that must be adhered to by medical professionals, and the organization has the ability to take action should those standards be missed or otherwise unmet. Cosmetic surgeons in other countries may not have the equivalent of GMC registration which puts the lives and well-being of patients having cosmetic surgery abroad at high risk.
Complications with Aftercare
In today’s medical tourism market, there are a number of brokers and agents who work solely for the purpose of booking prospective patients with willing cosmetic doctors in other countries. These brokers manage the travel arrangements, schedule the consultation (if there is one) and the procedure, and take a small fee in return.
While the process of booking a medical tourism trip for the purpose of having a cosmetic procedure completed is relatively easy with the help of brokers, one glaring detail is often left out.
Cosmetic surgeries are major medical procedures that generally require downtime afterward. Depending on the type of treatment completed, patients may need assistance performing everyday activities like dressing or bathing, or they may be required to rest to promote the body’s natural healing process.
Traveling shortly after a major medical procedure like cosmetic surgery is ill-advised and can lead to complications like blood clots and infections not easily treated.
According to the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgeons, 37% of surveyed respondents cited treating a patient through the national health system because of complications arising from cosmetic surgery completed abroad.
Forcing travel back to one’s country within days after surgery can quickly lead to dire consequences for the patient.
In addition to complications due to lacking aftercare and concerns over surgeon accreditation, individuals who opt to have a voluntary cosmetic procedure performed overseas face an uphill battle as it relates to bringing suit against the facility or surgeon.
According to a representative from a legal team of medical negligence experts, cosmetic surgery abroad comes with a variety of complications that make bringing either a criminal or civil case difficult?
When patients experience a poor-quality treatment which results in an adverse outcome, a legal claim may be the next viable step. Unfortunately, the process that must be followed in order to pursue complaints and receive legal assistance is rarely as straightforward as it may be in the patient’s resident country.
Without an available outlet to receive compensation or other resources for missteps in treatment or the healing process, patients are left to cover the financial burden ‘and the emotional challenges that come with that burden’ without the assistance of professional legal experts.
Travel Insurance Won’t Cut It
Finally, medical tourism for voluntary surgery is not clearly covered by travel insurance. In some cases, brokers selling medical tourism packages offer insurance cover as a way to ease the minds of prospective patients leery of traveling abroad for treatment.
However, that insurance covers incidentals, such as lost luggage, a canceled flight, or a mix up with hotel accommodations, not the adverse effects of a cosmetic procedure gone wrong. Currently, there is no market for medical tourism insurance, given that insurance companies understand that the risks are high, and therefore, not profitable even when premiums are paid.
Medical tourism for cosmetic treatment can be a method to save a portion of the cost of the procedure itself. However, the practice comes with a variety of risks that could quickly outweigh any savings found by traveling abroad.
Prospective cosmetic surgery patients should fully understand these risks prior to booking their ticket to another country in the hopes of getting the discount of a lifetime.