/News

November 24, 2023

The dangers of cosmetic tourism

AestheticsInsight

By Will Marshall, Head of Legal and Risk Management

The dangers of cosmetic tourism

The dangers of cosmetic tourism were highlighted again following the tragic death of a British BBL patient in Turkey

The UK government has this week expressed its commitment to addressing concerns around medical and cosmetic tourism by planning discussions with Turkish officials after several reported deaths.

The move follows the death of Melissa Kerr following Brazilian butt-lift (BBL) surgery at the private Medicana Haznedar Hospital in Istanbul in 2019. Earlier this week, the Health Minister, Maria Caulfield, acknowledged the seriousness of the issue and announced that officials from the Department of Health and Social Care would be meeting with Turkish counterparts to discuss regulations and ensure the safety of individuals seeking medical treatments abroad.

Melissa Kerr's death has again raised concerns about cosmetic surgery tourism and the lack of information provided to individuals before undergoing cosmetic procedures overseas.

Following an inquest into Ms Kerr's death in September 2023, the senior Coroner for Norfolk, Jacqueline Lake, issued a Prevention of Future Deaths report. The Coroner recorded that Ms Kerr had not been seen by a surgeon or clinician prior to the procedures and only underwent a limited pre-operative assessment. Ms Kerr was provided with limited information regarding the very high risks and mortality rate associated with the procedure.

BBL surgery has long been widely recognised as one of the highest-risk surgical cosmetic procedures. It involves fat being transferred to the buttocks from other areas of the body, such as the hips or stomach. Certain surgical techniques can significantly increase the risk of fat embolus. The procedure carries such a high mortality rate that last year, new guidelines were issued to UK cosmetic surgery association members after a four-year moratorium due to safety concerns.

The Health Minister expressed her condolences to the Kerr family and stressed the importance of learning from such incidents to prevent future deaths. She highlighted the need for transparency and standardisation in healthcare tourism and emphasised the government's focus on effectively communicating the risks of procedures, especially for high-risk surgeries like the Brazilian butt-lift.

Key Takeaways:

1. This tragic case again highlights the risks of medical and cosmetic tourism and the need for increased regulation in this growing area to protect individuals seeking treatments abroad. The UK government plans to discuss regulations around medical and cosmetic tourism with Turkish officials following several reported deaths.

2. It also highlights the risks inherent in the BBL procedure. The government has emphasised the need for transparency, standardisation, and effective communication of risks associated with all cosmetic procedures, particularly high-risk surgeries such as BBL, to prevent future deaths.

3. The case again illustrates the importance of effective pro-operative consultation for all cosmetic patients so that they are fully aware of all of the risks associated with the surgery and can provide their properly informed consent to the treatment.

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