British woman's cosmetic surgery death in Thailand sparks warning over 'surgical tourism'

Police say the surgeon was unqualified

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The Independent Online

Health experts have issued a stark warning about the dangers of “surgical tourism” after a young British woman died while undergoing cosmetic surgery in Thailand. Police have claimed the doctor carrying out the operation was not qualified to do so.

The 24-year-old woman, who has not yet been named, was reportedly found with a three-inch incision in her lower back at a clinic in central Bangkok. She had previously undergone cosmetic surgery at the facility  and had returned for a second operation.

An official with Thailand’s Public Health ministry, Boonruang Triruangworawat, said on Friday that the woman had stopped breathing after receiving an anaesthetic during the operation carried out on Thursday, according to the the Associated Press.

He said the doctor, named as Sompob Saensiri, 51, was not certified to perform cosmetic surgery and had been arrested on charges of “causing reckless death”. The doctor has his own website that contains glowing testimonials from people he claims to have operated on.

Thailand is well known for its affordable cosmetic and medical procedures, but there have been several deaths as a result of botched surgeries. In this case, it appears the woman had requested corrective work in the area of her tailbone.

The British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) has warned against getting such surgery abroad, unless patients can ensure they are going to be safe.

“The problem is that you can assume nothing. In Britain we have the NHS and a certain level of standards. In other countries the systems are very different,” said Mark Henley, a consultant plastic surgeon and BAPRAS member. “Thailand is very variable. There are some real specialists, but then there is the fringe.”

Michael Cadier, another British consultant plastic surgeon and President of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS), said patients seeking cheap operations were often not fully informed about the operation or the person carrying out.

“This tragic case highlights how, if lured by the prospect of what is essentially cheap surgery, patients can be left vulnerable,” he added. “Standards for healthcare may vary, and patients frequently undergo consultations. with company representatives who have no medical background. In some cases, patients are even being treated by a person without proper surgical credentials - if any at all - which breaches all the fundamental guidelines.”

The woman’s death was reported at around 11pm on Thursday, according to Thai media, and police and medical officials went to the SP Clinic in Bangkok’s Huay Kwang district. They found the body of the British woman still on the operating table. The staff had been unable to revive her at the end of the operation.

The woman’s body has been removed for a post-mortem examination, police said. Dr Sompob, the doctor, is still being questioned.

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, said: “We were informed of the death of a British national in Thailand on October 23. We stand ready to provide consular assistance.”

A study published last year by Leeds University into so-called “cosmetic surgery holidays” found that just under 17 per cent of patients reported having complications after the operation. Around nine per cent required extra help from the NHS once they got home to address the problem.