Rhiannon Harries: 'The trend for 'medical tourism' in the bud should be nipped in the bud'

Surveying today's leading ambassadresses of cosmetic surgery, it's easy to surmise that, however much you spend on inflating your lips and breasts or tightening up your face, the results almost always look a little cheap. If celebs can't find a doctor who can do a convincing job, what hope for those of us who want to do it on a budget?

Of course, the kindly cosmetic-surgery industry has lots of lovely solutions – payment plans to spread the cost, for instance, or travel packages that allow you to jet off to Eastern Europe or South Africa. You soak up some sun before hitting the operating table or the dentist's chair, squeeze in a few days' rest and then hop home to show off your new, improved self.

Last week, the Latvian capital Riga declared its own ambitions to develop its "medical tourism" industry and add another dimension to its less-than-salubrious reputation as a good spot for stag parties, awash with cheap beer and strip clubs. "You can still get drunk, and you can get your teeth repaired, and the prices will be considerably lower," enthused Mayor Nils Usakovs.

Presumably, the tourist board will finesse the slogan into something more appealing later, although they will have a tough job convincing me. Isn't finding oneself bed-bound in a foreign hospital a nightmare scenario for most people?

It's not that I can't see the attraction of cosmetic surgery per se – on a wider scale the silent erasing of physical difference is disturbing and depressing, but on a personal level it takes strength to refuse to join the seemingly unbeatable drive towards a universal beauty blueprint.

Nor is it about xenophobic prejudice; I've heard of enough bodged procedures on UK soil to know that bad surgeons exist everywhere. But to choose to be treated miles from home, knowing that you'll have to get on an aeroplane only days after an invasive operation and that resolving any complications later will be monumentally difficult seems the falsest of economies. It's taken me so long to build up a relationship of trust with my local beautician, I won't even have my legs waxed outside my own postcode.

That the rest of us should be able to indulge in the kind of treatments once reserved for the wealthy seems fabulously democratic on the surface. But if the only path to eternal youth within my financial reach involves an Easyjet flight, I'm not sure I want in – certain things are better not done at all than done on the cheap and I'm fairly sure that inviting someone to take a chisel to the bridge of your nose is one of them.

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