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'Risking their life' | Dangers of medical tourism in spotlight after Americans killed in Mexico

Board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. German Newall says traveling south of the border for plastic surgery comes with medical and safety risks you need to be aware of.

HOUSTON — A tragedy in Mexico involving kidnapped and killed Americans earlier this week shined a light on the risks of medical tourism. 

"It's mind-boggling to see this over and over again and patients don't realize the big mistake they've done," said board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. German Newall. 

Newall said patients need to do their homework before heading out of the country for cosmetic surgery. Far too often he said he sees what happens when things go wrong. 

"Patients come back desperate, with horrible infections, dead tissue from all these procedures like mommy makeovers," said Newall. "And they ask me, 'Please help me.' The problem is, a lot of surgeons don't want to take on these patients because that complication becomes your complication."

More than a million Americans traveled to Mexico for medical tourism last year, spending approximately $250 million. Patients pick Mexico looking for more affordable care. 

"Cheap becomes expensive," said Newall. "It's all expensive at the end. When you thought you could save a few bucks, you spend twice as much as you would here."

Dr. Newall said there are qualified surgeons in Mexico, but it's the post-operative care that can become problematic. 

"They elevate the risk of complications by coming back on an airplane or a car," said Newall. "I hope they realize the best care in the world is right here in the U.S."

And after the tragedy in Mexico earlier this week impacting American travelers, Dr. Newall said there are more than medical risks to consider. 

"Some of the borders are dangerous for many reasons that we all know," said Newall. "They may be caught up in a situation that is rather unwanted. They risk not only their well-being but their life. Hopefully, this will open the eyes of most people that safety is the most important thing."

A lot of plastic surgeons offer no-interest payment plans that can make procedures in the U.S. more affordable, so Dr. Newall recommends really doing research on what can be done here before considering having surgery internationally. 

Dr. Newall recommends researching providers or surgical centers you're interested in and to always be on the lookout for scams. If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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