See Naples and die
Horror stories abound about going abroad for cosmetic surgery and then finding it has gone horribly wrong.
At least one case has reached the English courts. In Foran v Secret Surgery Ltd & Ors  EWHC 1029 the claimant travelled to Poland for abdominoplasty. She claimed that the surgery was negligently performed by the Polish surgeon, leaving her with extensive and unsightly scarring which required revision, and that the aftercare provided was inadequate. She sought damages in excess of £50,000 for personal injury and associated losses. It was accepted that the surgery was undertaken as part of a package holiday organised by the defendants. Ultimately her claim failed because it was not filed within the appropriate limitation period.
The NHS is sufficiently worried about the cost of remedial work in cases such as this that it has issued guidelines entitled ‘Beware of the Holiday Sell’:
“Before deciding to have cosmetic surgery, you should be sure that you have good reasons for wanting it and have a realistic expectation of the outcome.
Beware of websites that sell cosmetic surgery abroad as a treatment plus a holiday. Also, avoid meet-and-greet evenings with sales people rather than the surgeon who will operate on you.
Never pay to go to a hospital you’ve never seen and a surgeon you’ve never met without any real understanding of what that surgeon can provide.
It is best to have two consultations with the surgeon who will treat you before any surgery. This allows for a cooling-off period, which is expected to be two weeks in the UK.
The surgeon has to make sure patients fully understand what procedures involve, the limitations of a procedure, what alternative procedures there are, and any potential complications. They should also be able to show before and after pictures of their work.
Selling cosmetic surgery as part of a holiday package is misleading. Cosmetic surgery is a major undertaking.
While it is possible to have a holiday before surgery, it is unrealistic to have one immediately after. It is not advisable to drink, lie in the sun or do anything energetic if you’re recovering from surgery.”
All this is eminently sensible advice but for a more extensive review of how to approach the legal pitfalls of travelling abroad for surgery an article by Bernadette Kogut, Medical Tourism: When Money Talks, Individuals Fly  TLQ 35 is instructive.
In this context it is welcome news that the Turkish Ministry of Health has announced a new regulatory regime for their medical tourism industry. The new rules cover health care standards, authorisations and pricing elements.
Health institutions and intermediary institutions must obtain an International Health Tourism authorisation certificate by 13 July 2018 in order to offer health tourism services. The prices for medical services will now also be regulated by the Ministry of Health, on consultation with the Health Tourism Coordination Committee.
Other notable aspects of the new regulatory regime include:
- Health institutions and intermediary institutions must establish an International Tourism Health Unit in order to accept, register, diagnose, treat, bill, discharge, translate and coordinate related operations.
- A doctor who meets the following criteria must be appointed as manager of each International Tourism Health Unit:
– Qualified to practice medicine in Turkey.
– Proficient in a foreign language.
– Have at least five years’ vocational experience in Turkey, including at least two years in public or private health institutions.
- Each International Tourism Health Unit must have at least two employees who can speak English.
- Only authorised health or intermediary institutions can undertake advertising and offer information about these services.
If the claimant in the Foran case had heeded NHS advice or had the benefit of the rules about to be introduced in Turkey she may have had a more favourable outcome. Failing that claimants can google ‘failed cosmetic surgery’ and they will find a host of claimant solicitors willing to help bring a case.
David Grant is Editor in Chief of the Travel Law Quarterly.
Some of the content in this article is based on information provided by Dr E Seyfi Moroglu of Moroğlu Arseven, Istanbul. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org