Mexico Kidnapping Highlights Hidden Dangers of Medical Tourism

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The recent kidnapping of four U.S. citizens crossing the Mexican border in Texas has drawn headlines across the globe. According to AP News, one of the abductees was traveling to Mexico for tummy tuck surgery. Officials say two of the travelers were killed and two survived. This recent tragedy gives new meaning to the phrase “medical tourism gone wrong,” say experts.

According to Patients Without Borders, Mexico is one of the top destinations for medical tourism among Americans, with an estimated 1.1 million visitors arriving in seek of medical care each year. These procedures and treatments include cosmetic surgeries, dental work, wellness treatments, and other health-related services. While experts often point to unqualified physicians, quality of care control and surgical safety concerns as major risks, this story highlights other security concerns to consider.

“Medical tourism draws patients to places where safety and personal security are less than in the United States,” says Eugene, OR plastic surgeon Mark Jewell, MD. “Individuals can be robbed, kidnapped, or harmed as they travel to a clinic for cosmetic surgery. Patients seeking cosmetic surgery outside of the United States must thoroughly research their surgeon, the location of the clinic, and check to see if there are security issues in their destination.”

Miami plastic surgeon Sean Simon, MD says many medical tourism cases gone bad can be avoided entirely. “Before making the decision to travel abroad for cheaper surgery, see at least one local board-certified plastic surgeon and let them know that you are considering a procedure outside of the country,” he advises. “Every patient has to make this decision for themselves, but you must understand the inherent negatives and the risk of the unknown.”

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