Brazilian butt-lift death prompts Turkey-UK meeting over medical tourism

Brazilian butt-lift death prompts Turkey-UK meeting over medical tourism
An inquest concluded that Melissa Kerr was provided with only "limited information regarding the risks and mortality rate" related to the operation in question. / Melissa Kerr, JustGiving
By bne IntelIiNews November 21, 2023

The UK government said on November 21 that it will meet with officials in Turkey to discuss regulations around medical and cosmetic tourism, following a series of deaths of British patients during operations in the country.

The UK Foreign Office is aware of more than 25 British nationals who have died in Turkey since January 2019 following medical procedures.

The BBC reported on the case of Melissa Kerr, 31, who died at the private Medicana Haznedar Hospital in Istanbul in 2019 during buttock enlargement (Brazilian butt-lift, or BBL) surgery. In September, an inquest heard that Kerr, from Gorleston, Norfolk, suffered a fatal clot after fat entered a vein and travelled to her lungs during the procedure. "The risk of death for BBL surgery is at least 10 times higher than many other cosmetic procedures," UK Health Minister Maria Caulfield noted in the wake of the Kerr case.

A coroner, in a prevention of future deaths report, raised concerns that Kerr and others were not provided with enough information before travelling abroad for medical procedures.

In her response to that report, by Norfolk senior coroner Jacqueline Lake, Caulfield said officials from the UK Department of Health and Social Care would be "visiting Turkey shortly to meet with their counterparts".

Caulfied added: “The intention is to discuss the regulatory framework, and the protections that are in place for UK nationals, and to identify concrete areas where the UK and Turkish authorities should work together to reduce the risks to patients in the future.”

Turkey has become a particular medical tourism concern for UK officials given the sheer number of Britons who now travel there to access health care, including dentistry, at affordable prices or to avoid long waits for procedures back home. Almost on a daily basis, the British tabloid press publishes sensationalised stories on the "successes" or "failures" of health procedures in Turkey experienced by British individuals.

Coroner Lake concluded that Kerr had not been given enough information to make a safe decision on whether to have the BBL surgery. She said that "the danger to citizens who continue to travel abroad for such procedures continues... and I'm of the view future deaths can be prevented by way of better information".

The BBC has also reported on how a British mother-of-three died in August 2020 after having liposuction in Turkey and how seven British patients died after weight loss surgery in the country.

On November 14, bne IntelliNews reported that, partly due to growth in medical tourism, Turkey looks set to leapfrog France to become the second most popular European holiday destination after Spain.

In 2022, Turkey welcomed 1.2mn medical tourists, while in the first half of this year there were 746,290.

Hair transplantation, cosmetic dentistry, laser-eye correction and weight-loss surgery are among procedures sought by medical tourists in Turkey.

Earlier this year, the UK Foreign Office issued a warning about outbreaks of botulism linked to weight-loss treatments performed in Istanbul and Izmir.