Buyer Beware: Cosmetic Tourism
Patients often say that cost is the main reason for choosing to travel overseas for cosmetic surgery. However, if there are complications with surgery and revisions are needed, that initial cost can increase significantly. It is therefore important to assess all the risks involved before making an informed decision.
Patients need to do their homework and make sure the person performing the procedure is properly qualified and accredited. It is also important to make sure that the surgery will take place in an accredited facility that is to the standards set by the Australian Day Surgery Council.
Some of the questions to ask before making a decision include:
- Is my surgeon a member of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS)? This means they have some form of internationally recognised qualification
- Have I got the right information and had enough time to give informed consent?
- Has there been at least a week between appointments so that I have had adequate time to consider surgery and make an informed decision?
- Are the medical standards of care and quality control requirements at least as good as those in Australia?
- Have I been assured that the devices and products used in overseas hospitals meet Australian standards? For example, breast implants used in Australia must meet strict standards of safety and effectiveness, a process regulated by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Other countries may not have similar regulations
- Have I got a plan for what I will do in the case of post-operative problems?
- Did I actually see the surgeon, or was the initial ‘free’ visit with a nurse or administration person?
- Did I get full, written financial details, including all out of pocket expenses for not only the surgeon, but also the anaesthetist, assistant and hospital theatre or facility costs?
- Were the risks and complications explained to me?
- What will happen if things go wrong? Will by surgeon accept liability?
- Where will I be financially if things go wrong, what other costs do I need to consider?
- Have I been told about post-operative care and what to do if complications arise after the surgery?
Post-operative care is vital to the recovery process and should not be combined with a holiday. Sitting by the pool, drinking cocktails and snorkelling does not qualify as post-operative care. A qualified and accredited surgeon should offer their patients a high level of post-operative care.