Is medical tourism a good idea?

When choosing medical tourism, you must be wary of unaccredited hospitals and doctors.

Surgical tourism is a general term that describes patients traveling overseas to obtain treatment.

Since I have returned to New Zealand from my Fellowships in London, I have consulted patients who underwent some form of plastic surgery overseas as part of so-called surgical tourism. They came to see me dissatisfied with the results.

I need to acknowledge, that not all of the surgical outcomes were substandard, and we must recognise that even the best plastic surgeons have complications.


However, what I have noticed and having listened to these patients, the recurring comments were:

  • Lack or poor pre-operative consultation
  • Lack of cooling off period
  • All options not explained, hence lack of informed consent
  • Risks of surgery not explained in detail
  • Language barrier
  • Lack of continuity of care
  • Post-operative complications not managed due to the lack of access to the surgeon
  • Inexperienced surgeons

The main reason patients seek plastic surgery overseas include cost, combining surgery with holidays and waiting lists. The low cost of care in developing countries results mainly from inexpensive labour and facilities used as well as nonexistence of malpractice liability.


I note, corrective procedures I performed for patients who underwent a primary procedure as part of surgical tourism were due to common complications coupled with poor follow up, since it would be inconvenient for the patient to return to an overseas clinic or the access to the primary surgeon was restricted for one or another reason. In addition, I noticed, there was a problem of some of the surgeons being too aggressive with body procedures, by doing too many procedures in one operation.

While there are a number of reasons to look into surgical tourism, the message I would like to send is, please investigate all the risks and the surgical treatment providers to ensure you are fully informed.