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The Dangers of Cosmetic Tourism

UK government officials will meet with Turkish counterparts following the death of British woman Melissa Kerr after undergoing a Brazilian butt lift (BBL) in Istanbul in 2019.


Jacqueline Lake, senior coroner for Norfolk where Melissa Kerr was from, ruled that Kerr died after ‘injected fat entered a vein before moving and blocking her pulmonary artery”. An inquest into Ms Kerr’s death found that she was given “limited information regarding the risks and mortality rate” associated with the BBL procedure.


Pat Pazmiño and Onelio Garcia report in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal that the risk of death from pulmonary fat has earned the BBL procedure the “highest mortality rate of any aesthetic surgical procedure”.


According to The Guardian, Health Minister Maria Caulfield said: “It is particularly important that those considering having the ‘Brazilian butt lift’ (BBL) procedure are made fully aware of the risks and have time to reflect fully on their decision ahead of surgery.” She notes the lack of “standard pre-assessment questions provided to Ms Kerr in Türkiye”, which will be addressed in the talks with Turkish officials.


Cosmetic tourism is the practice of seeking cosmetic surgery abroad, often with the aim to reduce overall costs. However, this practice comes with risks, and can be fatal. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) noted that the reason for higher costs for cosmetic surgery in the UK is due to the stricter “regulations of the Healthcare Commission and the General Medical Council”. The higher costs come with increased protection, including access to aftercare which may be crucial to ensure a safe recovery from surgery.  


BAAPS further warned that most holiday insurance policies will not cover complications from surgery. They estimated that the cost to the NHS from cosmetic tourism gone wrong is an average of £15,000 per patient. In 2018, the society called a moratorium on the procedure, as British Surgeons were warned not to perform it due to risks.


More people are seeking out cosmetic tourism to cut costs and reduce wait times. In March 2023, the BBC reported that seven British patients died after undergoing weight-loss surgery in Turkey. They note that promotion and glamorisation on social media has led to many more people pursuing cosmetic treatments abroad, without fully understanding the risks. British doctors have seen an increase in the number of patients returning home from said procedures with serious complications.


The BBC reported that Ms Kerr’s family hoped that after her death others would avoid “cosmetic tourism”.





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Tags: turkey surgery plasticsurgery BAAPS norfolk bbl cosmetictourism


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