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Plastic Surgery Patients Going Abroad Face Serious Medical, Legal Risks

Jacky Gale | October 19, 2018 | Posted in News

Passenger airplane. Landscape with big white airplane is flying in the sky over the clouds and sea at colorful sunset. Passenger aircraft is landing at dusk. Business trip. Commercial plane. TravelSince elective procedures like plastic surgery aren’t typically covered by health insurance, patients often shop around for the best possible deal. And increasingly these days, the lowest price can be found overseas. Millions of individuals in the U.S. travel abroad for plastic surgery and other procedures, and in doing so, they place themselves at a significant risk of serious medical complications and legal problems.

“Medical tourism is unregulated. I urge all patients who are considering traveling abroad for plastic surgery to prioritize their health. Know the risks and understand the legal implications before making your decision,” says Dr. Thomas Loeb, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Manhattan, NYC.

What sort of complications can arise from medical tourism?

About 15 million patients from the U.S. travel to developing countries for medical care each year, representing an industry worth about $50 billion. These developing countries aren’t subject to the same, stringent medical regulations as U.S. medical organizations. As a result, patients could be having surgery in an unclean facility at the hands of an improperly trained “doctor” using questionable instruments. Medical tourists are known to have a high rate of medical complications, including the following:

  • Post-surgical infections
  • Abscesses
  • Wound dehiscence (wound re-opening)
  • Kidney infections
  • Blood clots
  • Hernias
  • Contractures
  • Breast implant ruptures

Patients returning home may need to be hospitalized or require long-term, specialized wound care. Some of them return to the U.S. with surgical drains still in place, having been erroneously instructed to remove the drains themselves. In some cases, patients receive the wrong type of surgery. There have been several noted cases of patients receiving breast implants, despite not having asked for them.

Why does medical tourism carry legal risks?

Medical tourists have few options for legal recourse in the event they develop complications from botched plastic surgeries. After a botched procedure, patients may need extensive medical care to recover from the complications. Some of them may need to be hospitalized. Additionally, there’s a possibility of requiring a revision plastic surgery to fix what went wrong the first time around.

And because quality, reliable medical care in the U.S. isn’t cheap like it is in developing countries, patients are often on the hook for skyrocketing expenses that may total far more than what they would have paid if they had gotten plastic surgery in the U.S. When they consult a lawyer to learn about their options, patients are unpleasantly surprised to discover that they have few. It’s nearly impossible to hold a foreign defendant accountable in a U.S. court, given the lack of jurisdiction. In the unlikely event that a plaintiff is able to recover a civil judgment, enforcing that judgment and collecting the damages is another nearly impossible feat.

The safer choice for patients: Plastic surgery in New York City

Your health is more important than trimming the upfront cost of plastic surgery. Do your research, and choose a plastic surgeon with an excellent record of clinical safety and expertise, rather than one who offers the lowest possible price.

If you live near New York City, you don’t need to travel to a world-class surgeon. Dr. Thomas Loeb offers confidential one-on-one consultations. He’ll discuss your aesthetic goals and recommend an appropriate treatment plan. Patients from elsewhere in the U.S. are welcome to contact our office as well. NYC plastic surgeon Dr. Loeb often sees individuals from near and far who are drawn by his exceptional track record of clinical safety and world-renowned reputation for artistic results. Call Dr. Loeb’s Fifth Avenue office today at 212-327-3700.

Additional resources for plastic surgery patients

  1. American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Medical Tourism Can Put Patients in Legal Limbo,
  2. American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Plastic Surgery Abroad Can Lead to Severe Complications after Returning to the US,
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