WORTH THE RISK?
Despite the prevalence of botched overseas surgery, its popularity continues unabated due to low pricing and accessibility. Wendy Lewis, author of Plastic Makes Perfect: The Complete Cosmetic Beauty Guide and plastic surgery consultant with clients in the U.S., Europe, and South America, matches clients from various socioeconomic backgrounds with appropriate doctors. She insists there are a number of safe, domestic alternatives available to those with limited financial resources. “For example, visit doctors outside of large metropolitan cities or a board certified surgeon trained by a high profile surgeon and the cost is significantly lower,” explains Lewis.
But cheap surgery is only one component of why minority women are low- hanging fruit for offshore doctors. Fear of embarrassment and stigmatization combine to silence and disempower women. This creates the perfect storm, particularly deplorable within a segment of society most in need of vital information.
Many advertised packages offer surgery followed by beach trips, horseback riding, island hopping, and fun-filled adventures in the sun—an impossibility given the acute pain, discomfort, risk of infection, and need for healing time.
Because of the relative ease in which plastic surgery is portrayed on reality shows, many potential patients hold unrealistic expectations about achieving physical perfection in an abbreviated time period and are unaware of the complexity of the procedures.
Watts says, “The media has given the public pseudo- empowerment to make decisions about which they are neither informed nor educated. It’s a tremendous disservice, and doctors must draw the line and not allow themselves to be talked into procedures they know are unsafe.”
Although rare, botched cosmetic surgery also happens on U.S. soil. According to a 2004 ASPS study, serious complications occur in one in 298 cases and death occurs in one in 51,429 cases in the U.S.
Dr. Julius Few, director of The Few Institute for Aesthetic Surgery in Chicago and a frequent medical contributor on CNN and 20/20, lauds the expertise of many credentialed foreign doctors. Still he stresses that offshore plastic surgery is potentially dangerous. “The laws and regulations in these countries are much less stringent and there is no governing board or recourse for the patient if the surgery goes wrong.” Few adds, “Plastic surgery is major surgery. Having an extreme makeover abroad and then sitting on a plane for several hours poses life threatening consequences.”