Traveling out of the country to undergo weight loss surgery can expose patients to risks and long-term medical complications. It is important to make an informed decision when contemplating weight loss surgery in Mexico or abroad.
Today, we will explore key factors when traveling abroad for bariatric surgery. This information aims to assist you in assessing the risks involved in considering bariatric surgery in Mexico.
What is Medical Tourism?
Medical tourism is when a patient travels to another country to undergo surgery or receive medical care. People from the United States are known to travel to Mexico, Central America, Canada, the Caribbean, and South America to obtain procedures or surgeries.
The CDC predicts that the multi-billion dollar medical tourism industry will continue to significantly grow in the next 5-10 years, with bariatric surgery being a part of it.
Medical tourism attracts patients for procedures such as:
- Weight Loss Surgery.
- Cosmetic Surgery.
- Fertility Treatments.
- Organ Transplants.
- Dental Care and Surgery.
- Cancer Treatments.
Why Do People Travel To Another Country for Surgery Or Healthcare?
Some of the most common reasons that Individuals travel to Mexico or other countries for their healthcare needs due to:
The treatment, surgery, or procedure is often much less expensive in another country.
The surgery or procedure the patient is seeking may not be available or approved.
The patients are seeking a healthcare provider that shares their language and culture.
Why Do Patients Have Bariatric Surgery in Mexico?
Obesity in the United States is at epidemic levels, affecting approximately 42% of adults. This condition contributes to various diseases, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer, leading to preventable premature deaths.
Insurance costs related to obesity and associated comorbidities were over 260.6 billion in 2016 in the United States alone. It would make sense to most of us that insurance companies would encourage and cover the cost of weight-loss surgeries and procedures to avoid the financial outlay necessary to treat these long-term issues. The problem is that not everyone qualifies for the ones that are covered, and many procedures do not have coverage.
This means that if an individual needs help with losing weight to become healthier, they have to pay out of pocket. These patients often are enticed by “seemingly” less expensive prices on weight loss surgery or procedures that are offered out of the country, particularly in Mexico.
Many Americans and Canadians are traveling to Mexico to undergo surgery for weight loss because they can not afford to pay the local prices. But is the cost savings worth the risk? Are these patients having money?
Is Traveling to Mexico to Have Weight Loss Surgery Safe?
The short answer is maybe. Many individuals have chosen to undergo surgeries and procedures abroad without encountering major complications reported by local news. However, it is important to acknowledge the associated risks. Consider the following facts.
Standards in The United States vs. Standards in Mexico
Infection Disease Risk
Multiple patients who underwent weight loss surgery in Mexico experienced complications from an antibiotic-resistant infection contracted at a Mexican clinic. When traveling abroad for surgery, encountering bacteria and diseases not found in the United States is a potential risk.
In Mexico, clinics operate without the same laws governing surgeons and medical centers in the United States, which aim to ensure patient protection.
According to HG.org Legal Resources, leaving the United States for medical procedures or surgeries means not being protected by strict American legal and administrative laws. American doctors are required to follow these laws, but doctors abroad can provide lower prices as they are not bound by the same legal standards. Consequently, American patients are held responsible for any legal risks arising from the treatment. Finally, that makes it difficult to successfully sue foreign doctors.
If the patient is choosing a Mexican procedure due to cost advantages, it’s logical to assume they cannot afford substantial attorney fees for pursuing a lawsuit abroad.
What Happens if You Experience Complications from Weight Loss Surgery in Mexico?
When undergoing any type of weight loss surgery, some complications can arise. Ideally, the bariatric surgeon you choose to perform your surgery will care for you before, during, and after your weight loss procedure. If you travel to Mexico to have surgery, who will be monitoring your recovery?
Many US surgeons avoid liability for complications caused by surgeries performed abroad, such as in Mexico. Additionally, insurance companies may reject claims for expenses related to foreign surgeries.
Bariatric Surgery in Mexico Reviews
Review of Lap Band Surgery in Mexico
Justin Blackburn, who was seen recently on The Today Show was a patient who traveled to Mexico to have lap band surgery. Mr. Blackburn thought he had done his due diligence and had found a safe place to undergo his weight loss procedure at a price he could afford. His stepmother who was a nurse had gone to the same clinic in Mexico just six months before to have the same procedure and she seemed to be doing great. She even reported that the clinic seemed to be just as nice as any in the United States. Justin also convinced his friend Carson to go with him and have the surgery as well.
After the surgery, once back in the U.S., they could not return to the doctor who had performed the surgery for post-op care. Instead, the doctor who had done their surgery referred him and his friend Carson to a nurse in Arizona. This nurse had received training from the same doctor and would provide their follow-up care.
Doctors must perform periodic adjustments on lap bands to ensure that they continue working properly and to check for signs of complications.
Both Justin and Carson experienced serious complications from their lap band surgeries, and Justin’s stepmother, who had undergone lap band surgery in Mexico six months earlier, ultimately died as a result.
Years later, the men discovered that the nurse their surgeon in Mexico had referred them to for follow-up care was not qualified in any way to perform bariatric procedures or to provide care for men. She was, in fact, a certified nurse/midwife.
When the producers of The Today Show contacted this nurse about revoking her license and her role in the surgical complications, she responded by saying,
“All these people knew the risks when they go to these surgeries in Mexico… people need to take responsibility for their own healthcare.”
Patient Review of Gastric Sleeve Surgery in Mexico
Another patient Jessie, who traveled to Tijuana, Mexico for gastric sleeve surgery reported that no one explained any risks to her. She was told there would be a registered doctor “on-call” at the hotel where she would be staying after her surgery but there was not.
She had several serious complications immediately after surgery – her spleen was cut and her stomach was leaking. The doctor in Mexico did not even attempt to repair the damage, they sent her home in that condition.
As soon as she returned home, her family rushed her to the hospital where they discovered all her issues. She was already full of infection and they told her mother she was probably not going to live. Jessie has undergone several surgeries in an attempt to correct the damage caused during her weight loss surgery in Mexico, and she is now in debt for over a million dollars, with none of it covered by insurance.
Was Jessie remiss for choosing to do her surgery in Mexico? Or, was she just a single mom who could not afford surgery in the United States and was trying to become healthier for the sake of her children?
Jessie’s gastric sleeve surgeon claims to be the world’s top specialist in this procedure on his website, highlighting his numerous credentials. Conducting thorough research to find a reputable surgeon abroad can be a risky gamble.
Surgery in The United States Offers Protections that Surgeries Abroad Do Not
These patients express regret for their decision to undergo surgery abroad and claim they would not repeat it. Despite conducting what they believed was thorough research, they were surprised to discover that they had been deceived and had received inadequate care.
The general warning sent to the viewers was to find another way and stay local for weight loss surgery.
Even with Careful Research, Weight Loss Surgery in Mexico is Risky
Companies operating in the United States often recruit patients for surgery in Mexico. Agents for these companies receive compensation for each patient they refer.
These agents “sell” the patients on inexpensive weight loss surgery with the bonus of a vacation destination. The prices are usually all-inclusive and include a resort-like hotel. The agent sometimes acts as a concierge and travels with a group of patients to the weight-loss facility.
IBI Healthcare Institute – Bariatric Center of Excellence
Interested in bariatric surgery or weight loss assistance? Visit IBI Healthcare Institute, accredited by MBSAQIP (Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program). We have equipped our advanced robotic surgical center with cutting-edge technologies for optimal outcomes. Our skilled professionals will create a personalized plan to help you achieve your weight loss goals.
More Bariatric Surgery in Mexico Reviews:
For more information on traveling abroad for weight loss surgery and the associated risks, please refer to the following stories:
- The Consequences of Surgery Abroad.
- Warning After Weight Loss Surgery In Mexico.
- Woman’s Near-Death Experience After Discount Weight Loss Surgery In Mexico. Note: The patient Jessie, referenced above, went to the same doctor for gastric sleeve surgery.
- A Woman From Canada Still Trying to Recover After Gastric Sleeve Surgery in Mexico a Year Ago.
- Utah Patient Dies From an Antibiotic-Resistant Infection They Picked Up in Mexico During Weight Loss Surgery.
- California Woman’s Botched Weight Loss Surgery in Mexico.