According to USHAŞ, a Turkish state-owned healthcare company, in the first three quarters of 2022, a total of 876.521 people visited Turkey to receive health services. For comparison’s sake, in terms of health tourism, 670,730 people received medical services in Turkey in 2021.
The report doesn’t specify how many of those procedures account for plastic surgery. However, it’s useful to mention that the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery ranked Turkey fifth in its 2020 report about countries with the most cosmetic procedures performed. That year, a total of 945,477 plastic surgery procedures were carried out in Turkey.
Not only is Turkey such a beautiful country to visit due to its rich history and breathtaking architecture, but it’s also become a go-to destination for people who are considering cosmetic surgery. With so many visits to Turkey for this purpose, it’s impossible not to wonder about safety. This is especially the case with the reports of plastic surgery-related deaths.
Plastic and weight-loss surgery deaths in Turkey
The Irish Independent reports people in Ireland have been warned about the risks of traveling to Turkey to undergo cosmetic and weight-loss procedures after a growing number of people with complications. They also reported a story about a young mother in her 30s who lost her life following a bariatric procedure in Turkey.
For that reason, the Department of Former Affairs said they’re aware of cases where people experienced complications after procedures in Turkey, and a number of them have died. They issued a warning advising people who are considering traveling to Turkey for this purpose to get informed about all the risks and benefits and to discuss their plans with a healthcare provider.
The young mother from Ireland isn’t the only one who lost her life while undergoing a procedure in Turkey. Back in September 2022, Metro from the U.K. reported the death of a 25-year-old man during weight-loss surgery in Turkey. The patient died due to internal bleeding at the site of the operation.
The problem with complications and death cases following procedures in Turkey became so severe that the U.K. government issued a warning. According to their statement, 22 British nationals died in Turkey in January 2019 following medical tourism visits.
Brits and Irish patients aren’t the only ones with these unfortunate scenarios. In August 2022, Sveriges Radio (Swedish Radio) published a story about a woman from Sweden who died over two years ago after plastic surgery in Turkey. During all this time, her family waited to hear from doctors in Turkey about what exactly happened to cause her death. Forensic experts from Turkey concluded the patient died due to pneumonia and complications. She died one week after her procedure. Doctors explained the complications that caused her death, but the procedure itself was performed in accordance with medical safety rules. However, experts in Sweden find the report suspicious and believe the exact cause of death is still unclear.
Back in 2021, BBC published news about a woman from Dartford, Kent, who died in Turkey during a liposuction procedure. The autopsy revealed the patient had a perforated bowel, and her death resulted from peritonitis with multiple organ failure as a complication of the surgery.
Plastic surgery-related deaths as a consequence of medical tourism to Turkey aren’t a new or sudden problem. As a reminder, in August 2018, The Guardian reported a story about a death of a 29-year-old woman who went to Turkey to get a Brazilian butt lift. She died on the operating table. Doctors issued warning about this procedure and also encouraged people to be more careful when considering going abroad for plastic surgery.
Why is Turkey a popular plastic surgery destination?
Turkey has become a go-to place for cosmetic surgery purposes. This popularity didn’t happen randomly. It could be a result of affordable prices, visa-free entry, and short flight distances from different parts of Europe, Asia, and North Africa, according to the Middle East Eye.
Money is the biggest factor that makes Turkey stand out as a haven for plastic surgery. Most clinics offer lucrative deals. They usually don’t offer surgery alone but a package deal that includes luxury accommodation, flight, and even tours around cities such as Istanbul. Everything is arranged for the patient. They just need to show up. This may seem attractive to someone, especially since they get to combine plastic surgery with a vacation in Turkey.
While the most important, price isn’t the only factor that makes Turkey so appealing. Speed of treatment also plays a role. Patients also get access to procedures that they wouldn’t receive in their native countries. A good example is weight-loss surgery, which is only performed in cases when patients meet eligibility criteria.
Plastic surgery tourism risks
Even though it may seem convenient to travel abroad and undergo a cosmetic procedure that costs a lot more in your native country, this endeavor comes with certain risks.
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Global Open published a paper that revolved around cost analysis and patient perception regarding plastic surgery tourism. The paper raised serious concerns about the lack of regulation in cosmetic surgery tourism and the absence of patient follow-up abroad. Researchers also found that one psychiatric patient was allowed to undergo multiple plastic surgery procedures abroad simultaneously. That indicates a lack of safe preoperative screening and also points to overlooking the ethical considerations.
Vice published a piece about the popularity of plastic surgeries in Turkey and also shed some light on safety. The website also emphasizes that complications following the procedures may be in part due to a lack of regulation. Medical tourism isn’t strictly regulated, which becomes an even bigger problem when we take into account that Turkey’s medical tourism industry relies mainly on word-of-mouth marketing. Their biggest strategy is the use of social media, where people share their experiences so others want to get the same results.
Should people get plastic surgery in Turkey?
Thousands of people undergo plastic surgery in Turkey every year. Some of them experience complications that lead to death. As seen throughout this post, in the U.K. and Ireland, people have been warned to be careful if they’re considering getting cosmetic procedures in Turkey.
Whether someone should get plastic surgery in Turkey or not is a personal decision. However, before making a decision, it is important to consult a healthcare provider. The doctor will inform a patient about the safety of the procedure itself and educate them about the risks and potential benefits of plastic surgery tourism.
It is also important to do thorough research and choose the clinic wisely. The biggest problem is that people often go for low prices, which leads to a problem. It is important to put safety and expertise first.
Over the years, more than 20 people from the United Kingdom died following plastic surgery in Turkey. People from other countries, such as Ireland and Sweden, have also lost lives after cosmetic procedures there. Medical tourism is quite popular, especially for plastic surgery purposes. However, this industry isn’t overly regulated, which raises the likelihood of risks and complications. People considering plastic surgery in Turkey or other places abroad need to be careful and make sure to consult their doctor first.