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Surgery in the sun, what are the risks?

July 10, 2014 at 4:42 PM

Largely due to costs being significantly cheaper compared to the UK, more and more people are choosing to go abroad for surgical procedures. A practice known as medical tourism, it has recently hit the press following several horror stories.

With the Daily Mail headlining statistics that more than half of patients end up unhappy with their surgical results, why is this still a popular choice?

While undergoing surgery abroad may look appealing, with much cheaper costs and the added bonus of a holiday included, what are the risks and where do you stand legally if things go wrong?

Are people really weighing up the potential savings against the potential risks?

Neon Sign Plastic Surgery Specialists

The view from UK Surgeons

Cosmetic procedures are the most common type of treatment Britons undergo abroad, with the Daily Mail reporting that almost a third of all cosmetic surgery now occurs offshore.

Both the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons and the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) have voiced their concerns about people having problems following cosmetic surgery carried out abroad.

BAPRAS also conducted a study into cosmetic surgery abroad, which made the following worrying revelations:

  • • The foreign cosmetic surgery industry is both unevenly regulated and poorly documented
  • • Patients have found legal redress difficult to access if surgery goes wrong
  • • 16.5% of those surveyed reported complications following cosmetic surgery abroad
  • • 8.7% of patients surveyed required further treatment once at home

Whilst there are good surgeons all over the world, people are often looking to find someone that offers the cheapest price. However in return for this you may get the lowest standards in patient care.

The issue is that people may not fully appreciate the long term effects caused by having cheap surgery abroad. It can lead to serious health and financial consequences if all does not go to plan.

Therefore it is imperative to find out beforehand whether you have any redress against either your particular surgeon or the company that organised your surgery, in case something does go wrong. If you are not sure, don't do it.

What can happen if things go wrong?

It is vital that you do your homework before deciding on a surgical procedure in another country, to ensure that your bargain treatment doesn't end up being a costly mistake.

There was the story of Sue Briddick, who went to Turkey in 2011 to undergo a tummy tuck and breast uplift. She couldn't afford £11,000 to have the surgery carried out privately in the UK but after doing research online came across a company in Turkey who offered a package deal for £3,600 plus flights and accommodation.

The clinic insisted she pay in cash, and she admits that at this point alarm bells should have been ringing. However she still decided to go ahead with the surgery, and during aftercare the skin on her stomach started to turn black, yet the surgeon in Turkey told her it was just bruising and would go away.

Foreign Doctor Sign

When she then returned home to the UK, after just a few days she visited a private surgeon who immediately told her she needed to go to hospital or she would die. Sue had developed a serious infection called necrosis and had to undergo further surgery, staying in hospital for a whole month. Despite trying to make contact with the Turkish company to find out if she was entitled to claim compensation, they initially ignored her calls and emails. This highlights the critical importance of finding out first what recourse you have in case things go wrong.

There was also the case involving Alison Chapman in 2012 whose surgical wound opened following a breast enhancement operation in Tunisia. Following the operation Ms Chapman was disappointed with the results and returned to the clinic in Tunisia in order for corrections to be made.

However upon returning home to the UK she was in severe pain and the wound burst open. She then had to undergo two further corrective operations in the UK and was ultimately awarded £12,000 in compensation from her credit card provider. She hopes that her story will act as a warning to anyone considering surgery abroad.

Steps to minimise the risk of negligence

As with any surgical procedure, there is always a risk of something going wrong, so people need to be even more careful about this when deciding whether to go abroad.

If things do go wrong and you don't receive adequate treatment then there can be emotional, financial and sometimes even physical scars to deal with. It is therefore extremely important to ask the following questions before deciding on surgery in the sun and signing on that dotted line:

  • • Obtain full details of the surgeon's training and qualifications
  • • Ask about the after care package and what specifically it includes, for example are there any time limits on the recovery period?
  • • What are the local standards of anaesthesia and nursing care? What credentials do these providers hold?
  • • Ask whether there are doctors and nurses at the clinic who speak English?
  • • What happens if you return to the UK and something goes wrong?
  • • Is there a complaints procedure and is adequate insurance in place to cover your circumstances?
  • • If the surgeon acts negligently, who would you pursue to obtain compensation?

UK doctors have an ethical duty to take out adequate insurance or professional indemnity cover so that patients can be compensated for any negligent cosmetic treatment.

However outside the UK, patients' chances of being able to claim compensation depends on where they are being treated and on what basis. For example in Germany and France it is mandatory for doctors to have insurance, whereas in Italy and Estonia it is voluntary.

All of the above does not mean that surgery abroad should be completely avoided; it is just a case of highlighting the importance of carrying out careful research beforehand. Otherwise the saving of a few thousand pounds and a fortnight in the sun may not look like such a good deal.

About the author

Laura Reaney  photoLaura Reaney is a litigator within Spencers Solicitors Complex Injury team. Laura has extensive experience in dealing with claimants that have suffered serious injuries, and works on cases involving medical or cosmetic surgery negligence.

Posted in: Blog


Paralysed person 'to walk' at the Brazil World Cup

June 12, 2014 at 9:01 AM

As the mother of a son whose main aim in life is to score the winning goal in any football tournament, I can only begin to imagine how the family of a paralysed child would feel if their son or daughter were to be given the chance to take the first kick at this years World Cup.

While this may sound like a fantasy, over the last few months a crack team of scientists led by Brazilian doctor Miguel Nicolelis have been working on achieving exactly this. At the World Cup opening ceremony in Sao Paulo and with the world watching, a paraplegic will leave behind their wheelchair and take to the pitch in a specially designed exoskeleton suit. 

robotic exoskeleton

Can a robotic exoskeleton help the paralysed walk again?

The World Cup opening ceremony will be the first public demonstration of the new exoskeleton technology and offers exciting prospects for the future of paralysis victims.

Exoskeletons - meaning 'outer skeleton' - are designed to enable those with lower limb disabilities to walk upright without using crutches.

The exoskeleton consists of a robotic suit which transmits brain signals from a cap worn on the patient's head to a computer which is contained in a backpack. The computer then decodes the signals and sends these to the legs. These are then translated into commands for the exoskeleton to start moving. A battery in the backpack allows for around two hours' use as the robotic suit is powered by hydraulics.

"If all goes as planned" wrote Alejandra Martins for the BBC, "the robotic suit will spring to life in front of almost 70,000 spectators and a global audience of billions of people."

Implications for the Injured

Working in a serious injury team, I see first hand the effect a catastrophic injury has on people. The injured person's life, and the lives of their family is rarely the same again and any medical technology that can provide some form of improvement to their quality of life should be encouraged.

The implications of the exoskeleton technology are vast. While Neuroprosthetics are beginning to show promise for people hampered by incapacitated or missing limbs, this technology will provide hope and possible self-reliance to stroke victims, car crash survivors, injured soldiers and many others.

Whilst the exoskeleton is still currently at the development stage, the hope is that with such a high profile launch further funding can be unlocked to advance the process of developing the technology for wider use.

"We want to galvanise people's imaginations" says Miguel Nicolelis, the Brazilian neuroscientist at Duke University who is leading the Walk Again Project's efforts to create the robotic suit. "With enough political will and investment, we could make wheelchairs obsolete".

Nicolesis has spent years of research developing the principle that the brain can rewire itself to adapt to new circumstances. The robotic suit works on the basis that the mind will treat the exoskeleton as an extension of the physical body.

Impression of robotic exoskeleton taking the first kick


Innovation on an International Stage

What better place is there to demonstrate the possibilities of the new technology than the World Cup? The finer details are not confirmed as yet but the speculation is that someone will be chosen from a group of around ten paraplegic men and women to perform the 'miracle' of walking and kicking the football. What a wonderful opportunity to be part of a historic step forward in the progression of innovative science.

I would lay odds on there being more than a few tears amongst the spectators. 

About the author

Carol Wildman  photoCarol Wildman is a Paralegal within Spencers complex injury department. Carol assists the serious injury team with catastrophic injury cases and medical negligence claims.

Posted in: Blog

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Ashgate Hospice vs. Spencers Solicitors Charity Match 2014

May 30, 2014 at 11:32 AM

Teams from Spencers Solicitors and Ashgate Hospice took part in a charity football match last Saturday to raise funds for the Chesterfield based hospice.

Ashgate Hospice is an independent charity that provides specialist palliative care (care to relieve pain rather than cure) at its Hospice and in the wider community for adults throughout North Derbyshire. The Ashgate Hospice football team was made up of hospice staff, volunteers and their families.

Match highlights

The match kicked off at 10AM on 24th May at the Proact Stadium, the home of Chesterfield FC, and supporters from both Spencers and Ashgate Hospice were in attendance. The Ashgate squad were drawn the home dressing room and donned the blue home kit, while Spencers were outfitted in the flattering gold away kit.

After a cagey start by both teams, the match burst into life with a spectacular overhead kick scored by Spencer’s forward Alex Wildman who got on the end of a pinpoint cross from Danny Keenan. Each team then traded goals through the rain with some great saves being made by both sets of keepers and defenders. The match finally ended in a well deserved 4-2 victory to Ashgate Hospice.

Support from the stands

As well as supporting their teams during the match, Spencers and Ashgate volunteers sold raffle tickets to those in attendance raising over £180 and also collected nominations for a man of the match.

Post match a buffet and drinks were provided for the players along with presentation of the winner's trophy to the Ashgate team captain and man of the match award to Spencers Danny Keenan.

Martyn Gilbert, Spencers Solicitors midfielder and Chief Information Officer added:

"The match was a great game and the players from both teams were proud to play a part in raising money for such a vital charity. We would also like to thank all the people who helped organise the event and came out to support their local hospice."

Spencers defence push back an Ashgate winger

Please visit our Pinterest board or facebook page for more match photos, and you can also donate to Ashgate Hospice via justgiving.com.

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