Medical tourism, the process of traveling outside one’s own country to have a medical procedure performed, started as a trend among citizens of underdeveloped countries. When surgeries, either medically necessary for maintaining quality of life or cosmetic in nature, were not readily available in country, individuals with the time and money to do so opted to travel elsewhere to receive treatment. Now, though, medical tourism has become more popular among those wanting a fresh look through cosmetic surgery – and not because treatments aren’t available in clinics in their own resident country.
The ability to travel abroad for cosmetic surgery has grown in popularity in recent years given the affordability of airfare, hotel stays, and other transportation to other countries. Also, medical tourism offers a slew of perceived perks, not the least of which is the lower cost of certain treatments in other parts of the world. Some are drawn to traveling for cosmetic procedures simply to save a little cash, but the initial cost savings doesn’t always work out to their benefit. Here are the five reasons to consider leaving medical tourism for cosmetic procedures off the to-do list.
Although the allure to travel abroad for a cosmetic procedure can be strong, gaining a full understanding of how well trained a cosmetic surgeon can be a challenge. Each country has its own standards relating to the regulation of surgeons and the clinics in which they perform treatments. In the U.S., for instance, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons provides an easy online tool to verify the certification and accreditation of a cosmetic surgeon or clinic; similarly, in the UK, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons offers a search function through its website.
Developed countries also have guidelines cosmetic surgeons must follow in order to protect prospective patients from things like false advertising, lacking initial consultations, or uninformed consent. Getting a cosmetic procedure abroad does not ensure these regulations and accreditations are met, creating undue risk for patients.
No Doctor-Patient Relationship
Individuals seeking a lower price tag on cosmetic procedures often take for granted the doctor-patient relationship that comes with treatment in their home country. Traveling elsewhere for a cosmetic surgery may result in having a procedure completed the same day the doctor is met face-to-face, which typically does not provide enough time to make an informed decision. Additionally, a number of facilities focused on medical tourism patients make up for the lowered cost of treatments by serving a greater number of individuals. In doing so, consultations and the procedures may be rushed. Not having the opportunity to establish a relationship with a cosmetic surgeon prior to undergoing a major cosmetic treatment can quickly lead to complications not easily managed once returning home.
A Disruption to Aftercare
It is necessary for individuals considering cosmetic surgery abroad to understand the post-surgery care required to heal well and ultimately, reap the best possible results from the treatment. Depending on the type of procedure undergone, patients may require some degree of assistance due to the mobility restraints recommended by the surgeon or facility staff. This may not be feasible if the trip to another country for the procedure is short or ill-planned. Also, traveling for an extended period of time after a major surgery has the potential to cause complications. A long flight or car ride increasing a patient’s chance for developing deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism – both types of blood clots that can be fatal. Failing to recognize these risks could result in irreparable damage or prolonged healing after a cosmetic surgery abroad.
No Legal Framework
As with any medical procedure or treatment, voluntary or involuntary, problems can and do arise. In the event of an adverse outcome of a cosmetic surgery in a country other than the patient’s residence, taking legal action against the provider, facility, or medical tourism broker involved in booking the trip could be a nightmare.
According to a representative from a law firm that deals with cosmetic surgery negligence cases in the UK, patients face potential confusion with a variety of issues relating to bringing a civil or criminal lawsuit against a cosmetic surgeon in another country. He states, “There are certain factors that need to be in place in order to bring a case to court in the UK for a British patient. These include the surgeon being registered in the UK, a contractual arrangement taking place in England, and pre-operation consultation taking place in country.” Without these elements in place, the ability for a patient to bring a case against a cosmetic surgeon is low, leaving the financial and emotional burdens on the shoulders of the patient alone.
Minimal Insurance Coverage
Some believe that obtaining travel insurance to cover any issues that could result from a botched cosmetic procedure abroad is a smart option. In reality, travel insurance does not cover patients who elect to have voluntary procedures completed in other countries. Although a rise in insurance cover specific to medical tourism has taken place over the last few years, these policies only take care of incidental expenses associated with travel, not the procedure itself.
Any combination of these issues surrounding medical tourism specific to cosmetic procedures has the potential to have a drastic impact on a patient’s life. Before jumping on the bandwagon of cost savings purported by cosmetic surgeons abroad, take the time to fully research the provider, the facility, and the limitations placed on treatment completed in other countries.