Turkey medical treatment risks

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs is warning about the risks of going to Turkey for cosmetic and weight-loss procedures, after a number of recent deaths of Irish medical tourists.

Irish people have been warned about the risks of going to Turkey for cosmetic and weight-loss procedures after a number of deaths due to complications. It comes following a recent death of an Irish woman who travelled to Turkey for a medical procedure. At least three Irish people are reported to have died in Turkey after travelling for a procedure in the last year.

The department said some Irish citizens have experienced complications after treatments in Turkey, and advised travellers to discuss their plans carefully with their own specialists before committing to any procedure overseas.

St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin has said it has treated an increasing number of people over the last two years who have travelled abroad for surgery and come back unwell. This includes a number of emergency presentations due to bariatric surgery that was performed abroad.

On its website, the Department of Foreign Affairs reminds citizens who may be considering medical tourism that that all surgery contains an element of risk, stating “Individuals should seek to inform themselves of both the risks and benefits of any procedures, and are advised to discuss their plans carefully with their own doctor, dentist and/or hospital specialist before committing to any procedure abroad. Individuals should also familiarise themselves with any follow-up treatment or process that may be required, and be aware that they may encounter communication difficulties in a non-English speaking environment.”

Concerns are now growing about the rising rate of complications due to the “conveyor belt” system being adopted by some hospitals and clinics. Patients have reported being operated on at 10pm at night and seeing “trolley loads” of people waiting to undergo cosmetic and weight-loss procedures. Certain hospitals have been discharging patients to hotels for their aftercare, which Irish medics have described as extremely worrying due to hygiene and safety concerns.

Turkey has become an increasingly popular destination for Irish people seeking to have dental, cosmetic and bariatric procedures. High costs, waiting lists of up to five years and the lack of availability of certain procedures in Ireland is leading people abroad.

Some weight-loss clinics in Turkey are asking Irish influencers to promote medical procedures on their social media pages. Clinics have been messaging female influencers with large followings on Instagram about collaborating to promote bariatric surgery.

Under a set of legislative frameworks, health tourism and medical services are stringently regulated in Turkey, starting with the main law text, the Law on the Method of Execution of Medicine and Medical Sciences No. 1219 and the Law on Health Care Services No. 3359. As per this new framework, the entities, institutions, and individual empowered to offer patient care and healthcare services are closely managed and are mainly subject to licenses approved by Turkey’s Health Ministry.

While Turkey has brought in several new regulations to improve quality, as yet there is little sign of the state being able to really enforce the rules or stamp out the worst excesses.