Medical tourism is a growing phenomenon. "Ten years ago, there were still only five or six destinations offering care to foreigners," says Jonathan Edelheit, head of the Medical Tourism Association, an American association that works for quality and transparency in medical tourism. Today, there are more than 100. "
Globalized cosmetic surgery knows no law
Tracy Cohen, the director of the Clinic Champs-Elysees explains, ”Especially since 2018, foreign clinics in Tunisia, Turkey and elsewhere are very aggressively advertising to the French market . However, in France, it is forbidden for cosmetic surgery clinics to communicate due to the risk of penalty and closure of the establishment by the Regional Health Agency (ARS). This regulation creates unfair competition. "
Price remains their main argument, with savings of up to 70-90%.
"It's become an industry of mass production. Starlets are constantly being approach ed by medical tourism agencies in Tunisia, who in return for liposuction or breast implants, require in return, a spotlight on their social networks, "denounces youtubers Sam Zirah. "If small celebrities, followed by 20,000 to 400,000 subscribers, have the right to a free intervention, this business goes much further. Some are even paid for surgery or care, "Sam Zirah reveals.
Bloggers and youtubers are also invited to accompany the reality TV candidates and to film them during the interventions. Sam Zirah, who shot two videos two years ago, regrets it bitterly. "They flatly offered me a monthly fixed. They said to me: send us candidates every month, as if it were a casting to get a snowball effect from the fans. They repeated, “we alternate between 15-30 French patients operated per month, but we need 100 to 150,” he reveals.
Medical tourism is not without risk
The post-operative management of foreign operations is ohen unsatisfactory. "The patient is not ohen entitled to follow-up counselling," says Jonathan Edelheit. The average length of hospital stay rarely exceeds a few days.
In case of complication or medical error, the possibilities for obtaining repairs are tenuous. "The patient is ohen leh alone: the clinic that treated them gets rid of their case and their usual doctor does not want to hear about the complications that have occurred abroad," says Keith Pollard, editor of the website Treatment Abroad and from the International Medical Travel Journal.
The "medical tourism" model of care itself may be a risk factor: preoperative consultations may be considered inadequate according to our national standards, with insufficient time for reflection. Postoperative follow-ups are limited to a short period of time.
In additition, since the patient spends his postoperative recovery time in his vacation place, leisure time is an additional risk for complications: smoking, sunbathing, hiking and other tourist activities.
Long trips by plane or by road before or aher surgery predisposes additional risks, including thromboembolism that can be fatal.
An increase in the aher care of patients operated abroad
More and more cosmetic surgery professionals are seeing an increase in demand for the aher care of patients operated abroad.
In Great Britain, a survey of members of the Association of Cosmetic Surgeons showed that 37% of them had treated patients with complications following an operation performed abroad. A Belgian cosmetic surgeon testifies: "The patients are always more numerous to call us to make sure that their operation went well, to be informed about their convalescence or to make up for the errors of foreign surgeons. If the destinatitions offer an idyllic selng and reduced prices, patients are not sufficiently informed before the operation and certain obligations - such as age, allergies or weight limit - are not respected ... But the worst, these patients then have no postoperatitive follow-up! "
"Patients are sent home with some advice and are then deprived once they return to Belgium. I receive people with infections or persistent pain. I also helped a teenage girl who had a breast augmentation in Turkey while her breasts were not yet fully formed. The risks taken by these medical tourists are totally inconsiderate! He continues.
A Swiss study published in the August 2019 issue of the Annals of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reveals that over a two-year period, 26 patients were hospitalized for the treatment of acute complications following breast surgery. The average age of these women is 40 years old. 10 of them were operated in North Africa, 8 in Europe, 7 in Latin America, 1 in the United States. Among the countries concerned, Tunisia is the main destination (8 cases) and the operations for the most part (70%) consisted of the installation of breast prostheses.
Tracy Cohen concludes: "It's a shame not being able to let patients know the quality and safety of cosmetic surgery clinics in France that are among the most regulated and most controlled in the world. In our sector, post-operative follow-up is almost as important as the operation itself. And when we go to operate abroad, we are necessarily deprived of it. "