Cosmetic Surgery Abroad: Is it Worth it?

Taking advantage of paid time away from work to travel to other countries, whether it involves seeing family or spending time with long-lost acquaintances, is a growing trend among adults throughout nearly all developed countries. Taking in the sights of a new place with a different culture, varied dining, and off the beaten path landmarks gives most a feeling of accomplishment, and rightfully so. Affordability has become less of an issue in terms of airfare and lodging, and adults are chomping at the bit to get out of their comfort zone as a way to relax and unwind.

While international travel for leisure has become more mainstream across the globe, the issues surrounding medical tourism come to light in a powerful way. Adding a stop at a clinic to the travel itinerary as one spends time in another country may not seem like a common occurrence, but this concept of medical tourism especially in cosmetic surgery is a turning into big business for a number of countries. For most, however, going outside their comfort zone within their resident country for a medical procedure is, at best, ill-advised.

The Draw to Medical Tourism

The allure to go abroad to have a cosmetic procedure done often boils down to the hefty price tag of procedures in one’s own country. For instance, Eastern Europe is a well-known hub for medical tourism meant to meet the needs of those seeking out budget-friendly cosmetic treatments. Impressive increases (over 300%) in the number of inquiries about getting a nose job done in the can be directly linked to price. UK residents paying for the procedure in their country cough up and the average of just under £4,000, compared to the £850 charged for the “same” procedure in the Czech Republic. With that kind of savings, it’s hard to understand who wouldn’t travel to get a new and improved nose, or tummy tuck, or breast augmentation.

Although cosmetic procedures in widely developed countries can come with a hefty price tag, medical tourism has grown in popularity because of the freedom of choice it offers. A quick internet search will kick off hundreds if not thousands of results for cosmetic surgery providers from countries near and far. Add the pure number of selections to compelling advertising that creates the illusion that scheduling surgery in another country is as common as booking a summer cruise, individuals eager to get a nip or tuck feel like nothing stands in the way of getting the procedure done quickly and within budget.

The Costly Risks

Cost and convenience play a significant role in the growing trend of cosmetic surgery by way of medical tourism, but the associated risks may far outweigh these benefits. One of the most pressing issues with undergoing a cosmetic procedure in a country other than one’s home is the lack of comparative quality and safety data. In the UK, for instance, plastic surgeons are required to be listed on the specialist register for plastic surgery, held by the General Medical Council. Similarly, private hospitals and clinics within the UK are highly regulated by the Healthcare Commission, helping to ensure facility standards are kept up. Within the United States, qualified practitioners are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery – credentials easily found online or by asking a provider. In other countries, the ability for prospective patients to check certifications and licensing, and feel comfortable with the cleanliness of the clinic is not all that simple. These questionable aspects of medical tourism put unnecessary risk on the patient.

According to a representative from a medical negligence specialist team in the UK, medico-legal issues arise more prevalently when medical tourism takes place. When patients experience poor-quality treatment which results in adverse outcomes, 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 straightforward as it may be in the patient’s resident country. Whether the problem arises from misleading representation of the procedure or the clinic itself, the consultation with the provider, or the negative effects of the selected procedure, patients face an uphill battle in receiving the recourse they need and deserve when things go wrong abroad.

As the medical tourism business continues to grow among individuals seeking out convenient, cost-effective cosmetic upgrades, the possibility of suffering under the care of unqualified providers rises significantly. Individuals can safeguard themselves from the inherent risks of cosmetic surgery abroad by probing for information prior to committing to a procedure. Questions surrounding the regulation of the clinic selected, the certification of the provider, and the steps for recourse should things go awry are all necessary steps in protecting oneself from the risks inherent to medical tourism.

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