Cosmetic surgery holidays – risk or reward?

Posted: 18/02/2014


Cosmetic tourism continues to be a growing industry with increasing numbers of Britons travelling overseas for treatment. Not only are costs for treatment abroad a lot cheaper but people are attracted to the idea of combining a holiday with the procedure. Companies such as Cosmetic Surgery Travel offer enticing ‘deals’ for such trips with adverts such as: “Peace of mind, a stress-free recovery, and wonderful memories of your medical vacation – Thailand, Malaysia, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil and other medical destinations – begin here”.

In a largely unregulated UK industry, it is not surprising that treatment abroad is no more regulated and, if things do go wrong, people often have limited recourse against the surgeons abroad. People also do not appreciate the range of risks inherent in travelling abroad for such procedures. Factors that consumers should be considering before going ahead with such treatment include:

  • Do they know who will perform their procedure and their expertise in that area?
  • Is the clinic or individual subject to any regulation ?
  • Does the individual or clinic have suitable indemnity insurance cover in the event of a problem?
  • Is the individual fully aware of the potential risks of the procedure and likely outcome ?
  • What follow up is available?
  • What resources are available in the event of a problem during the procedure?
  • Who covers the cost of any further / emergency treatment needed? 

A recent report by Newstalk ZB in Auckland, New Zealand warned about cost cutting on cosmetic surgery. Online site Groupy appears to be offering cosmetic procedures such as breast augmentation surgery, return flights and accommodation for a mere $6,495 (when the surgery alone would cost between $12,000 and $16,000).

Unfortunately, those who want this procedure are unlikely to ask themselves, “Why is this treatment so cheap? Why is this such a good deal?” and may not think about how and why the costs of the surgery have been cut so much. When the total price is so cheap, where are service providers making their money?

Amy Milner, a cosmetic surgery specialist in the Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team, said: “We had hoped that the recent inquiry by Sir Bruce Keogh would lead to suitable safeguards and more regulation to protect those undergoing cosmetic procedures both here and abroad. But, in light of the recent Government review, things have not gone far enough and we are concerned that those having procedures abroad are do not fully consider the potential risks of having surgery abroad. Given the increase in popularity for cosmetic procedures abroad, it is important that people are educated and do not rush in to book a treatment abroad. We are seeing an increasing number of people with poor outcomes following cosmetic surgery abroad who have no immediate remedy and would urge anyone with concerns about their treatment abroad to seek legal advice about their options.”


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