Many people assume that when it comes to cosmetic surgery, the laws and regulations that protect both patients and doctors are universal. This assumption is false. Surgeons only abide by the laws of the country where they work.

If you’re still thinking about travelling overseas for cosmetic surgery, it is essential to research and understand the laws and restrictions of the country where you plan to have your procedure performed. You should also check the laws and regulations in your own country. Compare both sets of laws to see if they are similar in any way and how they differ.

Here are some other tips and guidelines to help you prepare:

  • Cosmetic surgery of any kind performed in any country should be voluntary.
  • A thorough consultation, which includes a physical examination, treatment alternatives, potential risk assessment and informed consent, should all be provided by the surgeon before surgery and preferably before travel to the country where the cosmetic surgery will be performed.
  • Discounts or monetary incentives for cosmetic surgery should not limit or control the type of treatment or alternative treatments rendered.
  • Surgeons and/or qualified staff members should inform patients of all fees included before patients travel to their chosen country for cosmetic surgery. This includes the cost of the materials (implants) used for the procedure(s), in addition to potential alternative materials.
  • It is highly recommended that patients use facilities or institutions that have undergone government inspection and are accredited by well-known institutions, such as the Joint Commission or the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities Inc. Furthermore, patients should ask their surgeon about the accreditation of the facility where the procedure will be performed. If they still have doubts about accreditation, they should crosscheck by referencing the accrediting bodies’ websites.
  • Patients should acknowledge that there might be language barriers when dealing with staff during pre- and post-op periods.
  • Patients have the right to know who will be treating them; therefore, full disclosure of staff credentials is recommended before the patient travels to the country to have the cosmetic procedure performed.
  • The patient should account for and seek out follow-up care in their country of origin, preferably their hometown. This should be discussed and arranged before the out-of-country cosmetic surgery is performed. The patient should also be aware of the fees that will incur.
  • If complications arise, the patient should be given clear and straightforward instructions prior to receiving treatment. This information should include the responsibilities of all the parties’ involved, estimated costs for recommended treatments for rectifying complications, including ICU or ITU care, in addition to other options for care.
  • Before making a commitment to travel outside of their country for surgery, patients should be informed about the considerable changes in physician responsibilities and liability coverage if any adverse events occur after surgery. Furthermore, patients should be informed, in advance, of direct actions they can take if medical errors occur; therefore they should become familiar with the legal system of the country where they plan to have their cosmetic surgery performed.
  • All licensing, procedural outcome data and facility accreditation should be provided to patients before departure of their own country.
  • Patient medical records, when transferred to another country, should be consistent with the HIPAA privacy rule guidelines, which protect the privacy of individuals. They should also be available in the spoken language of the patient’s country of origin.
  • Patients opting to travel to another country to have cosmetic surgery should be informed of the potential risks that can occur when combining surgical procedures with lengthy flights. The patient should discuss in advance, with the surgeon, how long it is recommended they stay after the procedure is performed. Appropriate arrangements should be made in advance if an extended stay is required or recommended.

In addition to these guidelines, you should also have questions of your own to ask the surgeon directly before deciding to proceed with the surgery. According to the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons website, some important questions you should ask yourself and your surgeon include:

  • Will I receive the same medical care and quality control requirements if I was to have the procedure performed in Australia?
  • Do the devices and products used in the other country’s hospital meet Australian standards? For instance, breast implants in Australia have to meet strict standards for safety and effectiveness, regulated by the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration). You should keep in mind that other countries may not have these same regulations.
  • Have I talked with the surgeon who will be performing the procedure or only one of his/her staff members?
  • What happens if something goes wrong? Will the surgeon accept liability?

There are many important factors you need to consider before stepping on that plane to travel overseas for cosmetic surgery. Not only do you need to familiarise yourself with the laws and regulations for cosmetic surgery in your own country, but you also need to know the laws and regulations for the country where you plan to have your surgery performed.

You also need to brainstorm the questions you want to ask your surgeon before having the procedure. You’ll need to ask yourself some important questions about the procedure, your surgeon‘s credentials and the accreditation of the facility where the procedure will take place. Finally, you need to know what will happen if the surgery does not go as planned.

There’s a lot to find out before going overseas for cosmetic surgery. If you’re not prepared to research these questions and really understand the answers you get, it might be better to reconsider the whole idea and have your procedure performed in Australia. Surgical tourism is not just about money. It’s about your safety, your health and perhaps even your life.

For more information

Medical Tourism

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