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Understanding the Dangers of Medical Tourism

Every year, thousands of Australians travel overseas for a variety of medical procedures, including cosmetic surgery. Many are attracted by lower surgical costs available in countries with a lower cost of living. However, this plan can present serious difficulties. Before traveling overseas to go under the knife, do your research and carefully assess all the potential downsides so you can make an informed decision regarding your surgical plans. A recent media release from the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons urges patients to carefully consider the risks of traveling overseas for surgery.

Patients often opt for surgery overseas simply because of the cost difference. But while the initial price may be lower, the cost can increase significantly if you experience any complications following surgery. If complications do arise, you will be in a foreign country far from your own doctor. Ask whether the surgeon will accept liability if things go wrong during or after your surgery. Be sure to have a plan in place in case you run into post-operative problems. Understand what costs you may be responsible for, and how these can be paid. In recognition of the potential risk of these offshore surgeries, the NIB health fund recently announced plans to offer insurance packages for Australians seeking surgery abroad.

Post-operative care is critical. Though the brochures might feature patients sitting by the pool after their procedures, in reality this time period requires extensive medical care, which should not be overlooked. Be sure to ask your prospective surgeon what form of post-operative care is offered in the country where the procedure is to be performed.

Before opting to travel overseas, make sure that the person who will perform your procedure is fully qualified to do so, and that the facility where the surgery will be performed meets the standards set by the Australian Day Surgery Council. Ask whether your surgeon is a member of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS). Inquire about your potential surgeon’s training and expertise.

Compare that country’s medical standards and quality requirements to those in Australia. Some countries have lax regulations, meaning that your surgical procedure may be riskier than the same one performed in Australia. According to an article published by the Australian Medical Association, Australian surgeons are increasingly seeing patients disfigured by botched cosmetic surgeries performed overseas. The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons provides additional guidelines for cosmetic surgery tourists hoping to avoid this fate.

Don’t rush into medical tourism. Initially, it may sound like the best of both worlds: inexpensive medical procedures coupled with a week recuperating on the beach. But give this decision some time. Don’t rely on glossy brochures when deciding where to undergo cosmetic surgery. It’s your life you’re putting on the line.