Patients can be exposed to risks and long-term medical complications when traveling out of the country to undergo weight loss surgery. It is important to make an informed decision when contemplating weight loss surgery in Mexico or abroad.
Today we are going to look at some of the factors involved when traveling abroad for bariatric surgery. Hopefully, this information will help you to evaluate and assess the risks if you are considering having bariatric surgery in Mexico.
What Is Medical Tourism?
When a patient travels to another country to undergo surgery or receive medical care it is considered medical tourism. Patients from the United States have been known to travel to Mexico, Central America, Canada, The Caribbean, and South America to obtain procedures or surgeries.
According to the CDC, bariatric surgery is part of a multi-billion dollar medical tourism industry that is predicted to continue to grow significantly in the next 5-10 years.
Medical tourism attracts patients for procedures such as:
- Weight loss surgery;
- Cosmetic surgery;
- Fertility treatments;
- Organ transplants;
- Dental care & 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 is due to:
- Financial reasons – the treatment, surgery, or procedure is often much less expensive in another country.
- Unattainable procedure – the surgery or procedure the patient is seeking may not be available or approved.
- Cultural reasons – patients are seeking a healthcare provider that shares their language and culture.
Why Do Patients Have Bariatric Surgery In Mexico?
Obesity has reached epidemic levels in the United States with about 42% of all adults considered obese. Obesity is responsible for several diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, etc which are some of the main causes of preventable premature death.
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 many procedures are not covered and not everyone qualifies for the ones that are.
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 actually saving money?
Is Traveling To Mexico To Have Weight Loss Surgery Safe?
The short answer is maybe. To date, many people have traveled abroad for surgeries and procedures that have not ended up on the local news with terrible complications but there are risks involved for sure. Let’s consider some facts.
Standards In The United States vs. Standards In Mexico
- Infection disease risk – several patients who had weight loss surgery in Mexico developed complications due to an antibiotic-resistant infection that they contracted while in a clinic in Mexico. It is always a possibility when traveling abroad for surgery to encounter bacteria and diseases that are not present in the United States
- Medical standards – clinics in Mexico do not have to operate under the same laws that are required of surgeons and medical centers in the United States. These guidelines, laws, and practice standards are in place in the U.S. to protect patients.
- Legal standards – according to HG.org Legal Resources, if you leave the United States to undergo a medical procedure or surgery, you are not protected by the very strict legal and administrative laws and guidelines that American doctors are required to follow. One of the reasons the doctors abroad can offer such low prices is because they are not held to these same legal standards. Unfortunately, this would leave the American patient responsible for any legal risks that might occur because it is very hard to successfully bring a lawsuit against a foreign doctor.
Stating the obvious, if the patient was seeking a procedure in Mexico because it was less expensive than in the United States, it would stand to reason that they can not afford to pay significant fees to an attorney to pursue an overseas lawsuit.
What Happens If You Experience Complications From Weight Loss Surgery In Mexico?
When undergoing any type of weight loss surgery, there are complications that 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 surgeons in the United States do not wish to be responsible for patients who experience complications from surgery that was performed in Mexico or another country.
Also, a patient’s insurance company may refuse to pay for any costs that may have resulted from a foreign performed surgery or procedure.
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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, and back in the US they would not be able to return to the doctor who had performed the surgery for post-op care so he and his friend Carson were referred (by the doctor that did their surgery) to a nurse in Arizona who was trained by that same doctor for their follow-up care. Periodic adjustments must be done on lap bands to ensure they continue working properly and to check for signs of complications.
Both Justin and Carson suffered serious complications from their lap band surgeries and Justin’s stepmother’s lap band surgery, which had been performed in Mexico six months earlier, ultimately led to her death.
The men found out years later that the nurse they were referred to by their surgeon in Mexico for follow-up care was not in any way qualified to perform bariatric procedures nor were she qualified to see men, she was a certified nurse/midwife.
When this nurse was contacted by the producers of The Today Show about having her license revoked and the part she played in the surgical complications, she said,
“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 had several surgeries to try to correct the damage that was done to her during her weight loss surgery in Mexico and is now more than a million dollars in debt, none of which is covered by insurance.
Was Jessie remiss for choosing to do her surgery in Mexico? Or, was she just a single mom that could not afford surgery in the United States and was trying to become healthier for the sake of her children.
The doctor that performed Jessie’s gastric sleeve surgery has a website that says he is “the leading gastric sleeve surgeon in the world” and goes on to show his many credentials, etc. Even when attempting to do thorough research to choose a reputable surgeon out of the country, it is a roll of the dice.
Surgery In The United States Offers Protections That Surgeries Abroad Do Not
All of these patients have said on the record that they regret their choice to leave the country to have their surgery and would not do it again. They were shocked to find, even after what they considered careful research, that they all were misled and received substandard 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
Patients are often “recruited” for surgery in Mexico by companies that operate in the United States. Agents for these companies receive compensation for each patient they refer.
These agents “sell” the patients on inexpensive weight loss surgery with the added 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.
You Get What You Pay For
We have all heard this phrase during our lifetimes and in the case of undergoing weight loss surgery in Mexico, or another country outside of the United States, it seems to be accurate.
Most reputable bariatric surgeons offer low-cost patient financing plans that can make surgery more affordable. Many will also work with patients to create an “interim plan” to help them lose weight or to document the reasons or issues that are impeding their progress. This can then be used to petition the insurance company and seek coverage for a “medically necessary” surgery.
IBI Healthcare Institute
If you are interested in having bariatric surgery or need help with weight loss, please consider coming in to speak with one of our highly skilled and qualified professionals.
IBI Healthcare Institute offers one of the finest surgical centers in the country outfitted with the safest state-of-the-art technologies to offer the best results. We can customize a plan just for you and help you reach your weight loss goals offering you a better quality of life.
More Bariatric Surgery In Mexico Reviews:
For more information on traveling abroad for weight loss surgery and the risks involved, check out some of the news stories below:
- The Consequences of Surgery Abroad.
- Warning After Weight Loss Surgery In Mexico.
- Woman’s Near-Death Experience After Discount Weight Loss Surgery In Mexico. This is the same doctor that patient Jessie who is referenced above went to 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.