‘Medical tourism’ is a growing industry with an estimated 50,000 Britons who went overseas last year for medical treatment. The reason for this seems to be down to the difference in cost but medical tourism is not without its problems and people can often end up in very difficult situations when undergoing treatment abroad.

The Treatment Abroad Medical Tourism Survey 2012 states that plastic surgery, dentistry, infertility treatment and obesity treatment are the most popular treatments sought abroad. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) estimates that every year 20,000 people travel abroad for cosmetic surgery alone. Surgery carried out abroad includes breast augmentation, tummy tucks and facelifts.

Nigel Mercer, a plastic surgeon and past president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, says: ‘Booking surgery overseas can be as much a minefield as it is in the UK – if not more so’ and The Mail on Sunday has recently launched its 'Stop the Cosmetic Surgery Cowboys' campaign to highlight the need for regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry.

There is also an inquiry led by Sir Bruce Keogh to implement legislative safeguards to protect those undergoing cosmetic procedures. The minimum safeguards to be implemented are:

  • Minimum standard of training and experience for cosmetic surgeons
  • Regulatory body of registered, properly insured members
  • An end to hard-sell tactics
  • A 30 minute consultation with the surgeon at least two weeks before any procedure is consented to

The Penningtons’ clinical negligence is also seeing an increase in the number of medical tourism claims including those of June Jonigk and Claudia Aderotimi.

June Jonigk, whose bad experience was recently reported by the Daily Mail, travelled to Poland to have a tummy tuck and a breast lift and was promised that she would receive luxury treatment. Unfortunately, she suffered from post-operative complications including a gaping hole in her stomach and a breast reduction as opposed to a breast uplift. Although June tried to complain about her treatment, she was abandoned by the very company that had promised her luxury.

In February 2012, 20 year old Claudia Aderotimi travelled to the US to have a buttock enhancement procedure in the hope it would improve her career chances as a dancer. The procedure was carried out in a hotel room by an unlicensed practitioner and sadly 24 hours later she passed away. The silicone filler used in the operation had leaked into her bloodstream causing heart failure.

Amy Milner, associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons, said: “We hope that Sir Bruce’s inquiry will lead to suitable safeguards to protect those undergoing cosmetic procedures but more still needs to be done to ensure anyone travelling abroad for treatment or surgery has the same safeguards”.