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Coroner warns of medical tourism after patient dies

December 20, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A coroner has warned of the risks of travelling overseas for medical treatment after an overweight 31-year-old man paid more than AUD 35,000 for a plastic surgery package in Malaysia – and died within 24 hours of flying back to Australia.

Victorian coroner Caitlin English said the case showed that people needed to be aware of the risks involved when they travelled overseas for medical treatment.

Tourists from Australia would “not necessarily be aware of the difference in standards of medical practice and management of patient care” in the countries where they had surgery, she said.

There are risks involved in flying soon after surgery. In this case, the deceased, Leigh Aiple, died from deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot sometimes associated with flying.


The autopsy, however, showed the clots had occurred weeks before Aiple’s plane trip, while he was at the clinic.

The president of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons and former head of plastic surgery at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Professor Mark Ashton, reviewed the treatment and care Aiple received in Malaysia for the coronial investigation, the ABC reported.

Aiple underwent two marathon surgeries in the space of five days at a clinic in Kuala Lumpur.

He had “a 360-degree tummy tuck, extensive liposuction, an upper eye lift, a chin tuck, a thigh lift, chest sculpting and lip filler”, the ABC said. The first surgery alone lasted between 8-10 hours.

Professor Ashton said such multiple surgeries would never have been performed in Australia, where Aiple would have been treated as a “high-risk” patient. He described the care Aiple received afterwards as grossly inadequate.

Medical tourism is big business, but this sort of case raises major questions. The full ABC report gives more detail and is well worth reading.

Ashton also mentioned having to deal with the result of botched operations conducted by overseas surgeons. In a recent case, a 19-year-old woman had lost a breast and a nipple.

Ashton said surgeons in Melbourne had to fix up the result of botched foreign operations at the rate of three or four a month.

Such “fix ups” were often on the public purse.

“In Perth and Brisbane it’s more,” the professor added.


Written by Peter Needham

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