Health & Beauty

When Medical Tourism Goes Wrong


A 29-year-old Belfast, Ireland woman had to have her left breast removed after contracting an infection following breast reduction surgery in Turkey.

Amanda White travelled to a clinic in the country on 6 November, but when she returned she became ill and had to have surgery at the Ulster Hospital.

Despite doctors’ efforts to save her breast, she had to have a mastectomy.

Ms White has spoken out because she wants to warn others of the potential dangers of having surgery abroad.

‘Severe back pain’

The mother of two young boys, who lives in south Belfast, spoke to media from her hospital bed.

“I had always wanted surgery from I was about 18,” she said.

“My chest made me very uncomfortable and I had severe back pain but I had no idea it would turn out like this.

“The doctor told me if I’d left it any later before getting treatment I wouldn’t be here.”

Ms White said alarm bells began to ring as soon as she arrived at the clinic in Turkey.

“They just wanted my passport and cash,” she said.

“I had to sign a consent form which wasn’t in English and the surgeon was only in the room for a few seconds.”


A few hours after surgery, she was taken to a villa where she stayed for three nights in a sparsely-furnished room with no windows.

“The beds weren’t changed and when I asked for the corset they gave me to wear to be washed, it came back and it was still stained,” Ms White said.

“To me it’s just ludicrous. I don’t know why someone would subject their body to that sort of thing, I just can’t understand it,” he said.

“I can understand them trying to save a little bit of money and the cost saving, but really over the long term, is that cost saving?

“If it goes well then brilliant and some of the cases do go well, but when it goes wrong it goes very wrong and that’s where we’re just seeing these disastrous consequences.

“And we cannot emphasise enough the importance of getting this message across to the public – please be very, very careful before subjecting yourself to this.”

Celebrity endorsements

Ms White did her research before going abroad and said she was heavily influenced by a number of celebrities who said they had used the same clinic.

“All the celebrities are saying ‘this place is great’ and you trust that,” she said.

The surgery would have cost about £7,000($8.2 K) in Northern Ireland but Ms White spent £3,250($4K) to have the operation in Turkey and that included flights and the extra cost of hotels.

When she came home the wound on her left side became infected and when she went to her doctor she was told to go to the emergency department.

Then, last Wednesday, she had to have more surgery. “When they opened me up they realised they had to remove my nipple and then had to remove most of my left breast, there was nothing they could do.”

She is far from alone. The Ulster Hospital has recently treated six other patients who travelled to foreign countries for their operations with terrible consequences.

Alastair Brown, a consultant plastic surgeon at the Ulster Hospital, said there had been a worrying increase in what he described as cosmetic surgery tourism.

She will be able to have reconstruction surgery in about nine months.

“The doctors here have been amazing but it’s not okay to go away and I think we have to let girls know – don’t go away, save the extra couple of pound and get it done at home.”

‘Free corrections’

Dr Brown also wants the public to be aware of the dangers.

“Think about the establishment and the aftercare,” he said.

“Anybody can get complications but what is in place if something does go wrong?

“Our surgeons are highly skilled and trained and have ongoing assessment. Does that happen in other countries? We just don’t know.

“We had another case today but from what I’m told it wasn’t so severe but it will require a lengthy period of care in the National Health Service.”

We contacted the Comfort Zone Surgery in Turkey where Amanda had the operation.

In a statement, they said: “As with any surgical procedure, the biggest risk is infection and this can happen to anyone in any country.

“We are obviously very sad to hear this and are more than happy to make any free corrections that she may need in the short near future.”

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