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The Hidden Dangers of Medical Tourism

Cosmetic surgery no longer holds the same negative connotations that it did decades ago, thanks in part to countless high-brow celebrities sharing openly the nips and tucks they have undergone over the years. A quick online search returns hundreds of thousands of links which offer guidance on the procedures available for facial rejuvenation, skin tightening, and several other treatments that range in invasiveness and cost. In those search results, individuals looking for a change are also met with numerous options for cosmetic surgeons and clinics offering free consultations and budget-friendly payment plans. But not all providers are created equal, especially those promising deep discounts in clinics located overseas.

Medical tourism – the process of seeking out medical or cosmetic treatment through a provider housed outside of one’s resident country – has become a booming business in the realm of plastic surgery. Potential patients are drawn to providers overseas because of the advertised cost reduction for what is assumed to be the same treatment that can be received at home. While some cosmetic surgeons and treatment providers offer high-quality service to patients that is on par with local doctors, there are some hidden dangers in medical tourism of which individuals should be aware.

Understanding Provider Qualifications

One of the most pressing issues surrounding medical tourism for the purpose of receiving cosmetic surgery or treatment is the complexity of verifying provider qualifications in a different country or region. While online advertisements for cosmetic surgeons around the world promise up-to-date credentials along with state-of-the-art techniques, patients do not always get what they are promised. Attempting to verify the qualifications and experience of a cosmetic surgeon abroad is made more challenging by the fact that the information is not always readily available in the same manner it is in an individual’s resident country.

Nearly all developed countries have a set of guidelines and regulation in place to assist consumers with understanding the amount of training and education a cosmetic surgeon or treatment provider has under his belt. For instance, the UK requires that all medical professionals offering cosmetic services to the public are registered with the General Medical Council (GMC). Not only does this offer a degree of transparency in searching for a provider, but it also safeguards the public from receiving less than quality care from poorly trained or uncertified doctors. Similarly, cosmetic surgeons in the US are required to take part in the accreditation system if they plan to practice in the country. Providers in countries that do not have a nationwide system in place for accreditation or registering may not have the required skills or experience needed to perform surgery or treatment – and patients often suffer because of it.

Legal Issues

When a procedure overseas does not go as planned, patients may face an uphill battle in receiving legal assistance for the purpose of a medical negligence case against the provider. A representative from a team of clinical negligence solicitors in the UK states that cosmetic surgery abroad complicates the legal process, even when the next step is a criminal or civil action against the surgeon. Instead of following the straightforward steps laid out by the courts in one’s home country, bringing a case against a provider across country borders may not be feasible. In some situations, the courts will only hear a case when the event took place within the country where the patient lives, leaving those who travel abroad at a loss.

When patients do not have a way to receive compensation or other recourse like ongoing medical care after a botched procedure, they are likely to experience a reduced quality of life. The combination of emotional turmoil and the physical discomfort that comes with negligent cosmetic treatment is not easily overcome when legal action cannot be taken against the surgeon or treatment provider.

Aftercare Complications

In addition to complex legal issues and concerns about provider qualifications, patients who travel overseas to receive cosmetic surgery are at a higher risk of complications with aftercare. Several clinics that focus on medical tourism offer to manage the travel arrangements for patients, but in some cases, the need for recovery post-procedure is not taken into consideration. Getting on a long flight or sitting in a vehicle for hours shortly after treatment may not only cause discomfort; individuals may suffer from infections or additional injury at the surgical site that extends recovery weeks to months. Patients considering cosmetic surgery overseas must plan for the recommended recovery time in the country where the procedure takes place.

Medical tourism is on the rise given its draw for those looking to save big on major cosmetic procedures. However, the costs associated with aftercare complications, unresolved legal issues, and the risk of receiving less than quality care add up to well more than the amount it would take to have a treatment completed at home. Before considering cosmetic surgery abroad, individuals should take steps to understand the risks and weight those fully against the benefits advertised.

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