We were all told that we had nothing to worry about. Each of us had his or her own reasons to travel abroad for medical treatment, and we all met at the same clinic. We all chose it for the same reasons. We read great things about it from people who claimed to be former patients, it appeared to be properly licensed, the physicians all had impressive credentials, and the procedures we underwent were offered at a fraction of the cost we would have had to pay back home. And while we were recuperating, our families would have a relaxing vacation in an exotic location. Or so we thought.
But it didn’t turn out that way. Instead, it was a nightmare. For one of us, the surgery was botched. Another one of us was prescribed the wrong medicine and nearly died. A third person had the wrong teeth removed. A fourth developed hepatitis from an infected blood transfusion. We were all scarred for life in one way or another.
Yes, we were angry, but there was nothing we could do. Suing for malpractice in a far-off country is no simple process. In India, a popular destination for medical tourism, the courts seem to be perpetually backlogged, and, at any rate, the success rate for foreign citizens suing for malpractice is only about five percent. And even if you’re lucky enough to win your case, Indian law prohibits compensation for pain and suffering.
another popular Asian destination for medical tourism, the odds are even lower.
In Bangkok, foreign nationals are required to waive
their rights to sue their physicians in order to even be accepted as patients. Moreover,
as in India, Thai law prohibits compensation for pain and suffering.
What we did instead is to found StopMedicalScams.com in order to prevent other people from getting scammed by medical tourism scams and assist those who were victimized to get their money back.
We didn’t know it at the time, but yes, there are strategies for recovering the money you spent on quacks. If you paid using a credit or debit card, for example, you can file for a chargeback. Yes, you authorized the payment, but the service you authorized was not provided. You did not authorize botched surgery, the wrong medicine, the extraction of the wrong teeth, or hepatitis. You authorized the quality medical care that was advertised. Under these conditions, you have a good chance to get your money back.
What we also learned is that the process is complicated. You have only once chance to do this, so your case has got to be airtight. We’re here to share our experiences and knowledge in order to make it possible for you to recover financially.
Hardly a day goes by when a medical tourism horror story doesn’t make the front pages.
“The lure of cheap cosmetic surgery abroad is leaving British health tourists scarred for life,” reported The Daily Mirror on February 11, 2018. “So many operations are being botched that putting them right has cost British taxpayers £30million over the past five years,” the newspaper stated, adding:
Many patients are left permanently disfigured by second-rate surgeons they have often not even met until the day of the procedure. More than 1,000 women a year come back with complications ranging from holes in the skin to wounds that will not heal. Some have been sent away with just paracetamol and antiseptic cream, despite being left in agony. Four out of five UK surgeons are now dealing with more corrective cases than ever, with some saying it accounts for 40% of their work.
After several American citizens died or suffered serious medical consequences as the result of cosmetic surgery in the Dominican Republic, the U.S. Department of State to issue a travel warning regarding medical tourism to that country. By 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued an alert after at least 19 women in five states were reported to have developed serious mycobacterial wound infections after having undergone liposuction, tummy tucks and breast implants in the Dominican Republic. One woman suffered massive open sores and developed an antibiotic-resistant infection that resulted in a deformed abdomen. Other patients had to undergo repeat surgery to remove damaged tissue or foreign objects that were left inside their wounds!
Colombia is one of the top international destinations for aesthetic procedures. Due to medical tourism, the demand for surgery is so high that the country can’t produce physicians fast enough. As a result, many prospective Colombian medical students choose to study abroad, often for shorter periods than the four years required by Colombian universities. But when they return their diplomas are recognized and (often in exchange for a bribe) they are licensed to practice, even if they are unqualified to hold a scalpel. Their prices are significantly cheaper, but they are known to botch operations that leave patients with scars that last a lifetime.
An excellent case study comes from New Zealand. Given the cost of dental care in that country, large numbers of its citizens travel abroad, mainly to Thailand, for complicated procedures. In 2016, a leading New Zealand university conducted a survey and found that 96 percent of the country’s dentists who were interviewed treat one or two patients each year who traveled overseas for dental care. In most cases, it was because they required remedial treatment.
“I wasn’t prepared to treat the patient as the quality of work was absolutely appalling,” said one dentist, who had to attend to a patient who was in pain after receiving new crowns and bridges. Another dentist commented that “patients are often over-treated and inappropriately treated with irreversible damage to their teeth.”
An American man traveled to Iran for a risky leg-lengthening operation. After he returned home he noticed screws protruding from his right leg. Subsequent X-rays showed broken nails in both legs. He reportedly required two additional operations to repair the damage. He was lucky. Other risks include infection, nerve damage, hemorrhaged blood vessels, and fatty embolisms that can cause death.
Because the demand for organs is far higher than the supply, those who can afford it are tempted with the possibility to travel abroad. Even though it is illegal in every country of the world apart from Iran, an illicit market exists in which impoverished slum dwellers in the developing world are paid to donate kidneys. Transplants are not necessarily performed in licensed facilities, conditions are not guaranteed to be sterile and donors are not adequately tested for disease. Recipients, therefore, run the risk of contracting infections as a result, as well as hepatitis, HIV and AIDS. In addition, surgery can be sub-standard, follow-up is often inadequate and anti-rejection drugs may not be correctly administered, assuming they are even available.
Speaking of drugs
In 2006, an unlicensed Chinese shipped fake cough syrup to Panama that contained a chemical similar to antifreeze. At least 100 people ingested it and died as a result. According to the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, China is the center of the illicit global drug industry. There are reported cases of between 200,000 and 300,000 Chinese who die every year from counterfeit or substandard medicines. A large portion of these counterfeit drugs, however, are exported throughout Asia, and even to the U.S. and the EU.
The Medical Scam Industry
The top countries that have become medical tourism hotspots are said to be Malaysia, India, Turkey, Brazil, and Thailand, followed by Mexico, Jordan and Colombia.
There’s no doubt that these and all other countries have fine, reputable hospitals and competent physicians who treat their patients with respect and sympathy. And others who don’t. Those are the ones to watch out for.
Around the world, medical tourism is a big business. Estimates vary. One market research firm claims it reached approximately $15.5 billion in 2017 and is expected to grow to about $28 billion by the end of 2024. That’s on the low end. Another firm claims it will hit $32.5 billion in 2019. A third says it already reached $68 in 2016. A fourth says it will climb to $131.35 billion by 2025. A fifth says $143.8 by 2022. A sixth says (to be exact) $165.345 billion by 2023.
That’s not even the high end. In 2016, the U.S.-based Medical Tourism Association, relying on a report published by Visa and Oxford Economics entitled Mapping the Future of Global Travel and Tourism, claimed that medical tourism had already become a $439 billion industry and would continue to grow by 25 percent annually through 2025. That estimate, however, was criticized by the International Medical Travel Journal as flawed.
No matter which statistic you pick, medical tourism is huge by any standard and shows no sign of contracting. More than anything else, that’s the reason why so many inept physicians, con artists and scammers are attracted to it. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Consumers who sign up for medical tourism trips, however, have everything to lose, including their lives.