04 Sep Is Medical Tourism Safe?
Dr Linda is an advocate for greater public awareness of the implications of having cosmetic treatments and procedures overseas.
Along with widespread media coverage of the dangers of medical tourism, the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons has issued a “Buyer Beware: Cosmetic Tourism” warning and the AMA outlined the medical and fiancial perils of having medical procedures overseas in this article. However, Dr Linda continues to see a spike in people presenting to her Fortitude Valley clinic after having botched cosmetic treatments overseas – and with the holiday season approaching, she is providing a timely reminder of the risks involved.
“It’s a popular time for people to combine getaways with cosmetic treatments; it seems like a cheap, fun option, but being a medical tourist carries risks that should be weighed against its benefits,” Dr Linda says.
“The cost of treating an adverse outcome can far outweigh the original cost they would have incurred if they’d had the treatment in Australia – not to mention the loss of confidence and stress experienced.”
A doctor of 25 years, Dr Linda has seen a rise in the number complications from ‘medical tourism’ over the past 12 months. She urges: “be aware of what is being injected into your body; ask questions and do research before you have any treatment that falls under the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia; be it injectables, hair removal or laser skin revision”.
“Often people think that having a non-surgical treatment overseas is not serious; but in Australia they’d be protected by heavy regulations, monitoring and best practice training standards – it isn’t always so in other countries that offer cut-price cosmetic treatments.” – Dr Linda Williams
“I’ve seen patients who had permanent fillers injected into their faces without any idea of what the product was, or how it was going to act in their bodies. Treating complications in these patients can be difficult; often we don’t know what was injected into them – and sometimes the treating doctor or nurse in the other country has become unreachable or uncooperative. Most doctors don’t want to risk exacerbating the complication by retreating it if they aren’t certain of the product that was originally used,” Dr Linda explains.
Dr Linda has seen patients with scarring and skin pigmentation resulting from lasers not approved for use in Australia – which cost one patient over $2,000 to revise. Another patient presented to Artisan Cosmetic and Rejunvenation Clinic after having cheap permanent lip enhancement injections in Thailand. After returning to Australia, the filler moved and formed into a large, visible lump between her lip and nose.
“The natural dermal filler that is predominantly here used in Australia for lip augmentation is soft and non permanent – it can last up to 18 months and costs $600 to $800 at reputable clinics in Brisbane. It can be dissolved with a simple injection if the patient doesn’t like the result. But we had no idea what product had been used in the medical tourism patient that presented to our clinic; the doctor in Thailand wouldn’t return her phone calls or emails,” she says.
“So while having the initial treatment in Thailand saved the client a few hundred dollars, she spent three times the initial cost trying to correct her complication.”
Dr Linda – who trains doctors across Australia and the Asia Pacific region in cosmetic treatments and is a Fellow of the Medical Faculty of the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery – said medical procedures are safest when undertaken by local clinicians who are held to strict regulatory standards, and can provide post-treatment support.
“Choosing the right clinician is by far the most important aspect of any cosmetic treatment; are they experienced, are they highly qualified, do they keep their skills updated with ongoing education and what regulatory or overseeing body do they answer to if something goes wrong? Most importantly, if you need to see them two, three or 12 months down the track – or simply need to ask a question – how accessible will they be?”