Contemplating Cosmetic Surgery Abroad? Read This to Understand the Risks


Those who undergo cosmetic surgery overseas take a step into the unknown and, if things go wrong, it can be very difficult to obtain just compensation. However, as a High Court ruling showed, English lawyers are more than capable of overcoming the challenge posed by national boundaries.

The case concerned a woman who lost over 20 stones in weight following a successful gastric bypass procedure, carried out on the NHS. She was left with large amounts of excess skin and, after searching the internet, attended a clinic in Eastern Europe where she underwent multiple operations for its removal. Although she was initially satisfied with the results, the final operation on her breasts and thighs had devastating consequences for the rest of her life.

After her return to the UK, she developed serious complications, including necrosis of her left nipple and leg abscesses which took a very long time to heal. Despite gruelling hospital treatment, she was left traumatised, disfigured and in permanent pain. Her death from bronchopneumonia about two and a half years later was, however, unrelated to the surgery.

After her husband launched proceedings in England, a default judgment was obtained against the clinic’s insurers, who were also based overseas. Expert evidence from cosmetic surgeons was gathered in support of the claim.

Ruling on the matter, the Court described the experts’ testimony as damning. They heavily criticised the competence of the surgeon who performed the operation and the aftercare that the woman received. It was, they said, unlikely that she would have proceeded with the surgery had she been adequately advised of the risks involved and the potential length of her recovery.

Her husband testified that, following the operation, there was a major step change in her ability to function normally. She spent her time lying on the sofa, often not dressing during the day. No longer able to do housework or shop for food, she required constant physical care and emotional support.

Extensive medical records indicated that she was a vulnerable person even before the operation. She had, however, suffered greatly due to the inept surgical technique employed and the Court described her final years as thoroughly miserable. Her husband was awarded a total of £69,438 in damages, including £37,500 for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity she endured prior to her death.

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