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Tragedy in the tropics: Proceed with caution when having plastic surgery abroad

Once again, there is news of an untimely death as a result of plastic surgery performed abroad. Just recently, a 23-year-old United States woman died after traveling to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic where she had a liposuction procedure performed. The clinic involved in this case is no stranger to controversy having been the subject of three other investigations by the local authorities. Sadly, this recent tragedy marks the fourth death in as many months at Dominican plastic surgery clinics.

U.S. Woman Dies Following Plastic Surgery in the Dominican Republic

Unfortunately, these four women are not alone. According to a 2014 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 19 women throughout the United States who developed infections and complications after having cosmetic surgery performed in the Dominican Republic. For many uninformed victims, the allure of having plastic surgery performed abroad and recovering in the beauty and serenity of the Caribbean often masks the inherent risks involved when considering medical tourism.

In many instances, the clinics performing cosmetic procedures in countries such as Mexico, the Philippines and the Dominican Republic, do not adhere to the same strict safety standards as required in the U.S. This may lead to higher complication rates and often times less than desirable surgical outcomes.

Furthermore, when the destination surgeon's office is located hundreds (if not thousands) of miles from home, many patients do not receive the recommended follow-up appointments after their surgery. These post-operative visits are critical to ensure the patient's body is healing appropriately and to help prevent future complications. For patients experiencing complications from a surgery performed abroad, they are often left with no other option but to seek the care of another plastic surgeon costing additional money, time and frustration.

Although it is still unclear where the fault lies in the deaths of the Dominican plastic surgery patients, the circumstances surrounding the investigation should not be ignored. My advice for patients considering plastic surgery performed abroad is to weigh all risks, understand potential complications and proceed with caution.

Message from ASPS on medical tourism

If you are considering plastic surgery, the first and most important decision is selecting a plastic surgeon you can trust with your safety.

American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) Members meet rigorous standards:

  • Inclusive of board certification
  • Completing at least six years of surgical training with a minimum of three years of plastic surgery residency training
  • Passing comprehensive oral and written exams
  • Completing continuing medical education, including patient safety each year
  • Plus much more

By choosing an ASPS Member in the U.S. or Canada, you can be absolutely certain that you are choosing a qualified, highly trained plastic surgeon who is board-certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery® (ABPS) or in Canada by The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada®.

ASPS strongly urges you to not take plastic surgery lightly. Do your homework and ensure that your plastic surgeon is board-certified and has all appropriate credentials. One way to begin your research is to look for the ASPS Member Surgeon Symbol of Excellence to ensure they possess outstanding qualifications.

Learn More About the Dangers of Plastic Surgery Tourism


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