x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Scrutiny is good for cosmetic surgeons

Stringent regulations mean better prospects for the country's medical tourism industry

This country’s medical tourism industry has enjoyed a significant upturn in recent years, with thousands of visitors attracted to the UAE by the expertise of its many practitioners and surgeons. Some analysts have predicted medical tourism will be worth billions of dirhams to the UAE economy by 2020. Recently the spotlight has also shone on one of that industry’s key sectors: the UAE’s cosmetic surgery business.

As The National reported yesterday, the UAE ranks high in terms of the volume of plastic surgeons working here. According to Dr Luiz Toledo, a Dubai-based surgeon, the UAE has one plastic surgeon for every 18,000 people, compared to one for every 50,000 in the US.

While there is no doubt that the vast majority of these practitioners offer a high level of service, sadly there will always be some who are more concerned with making a quick profit than with proper patient care. Indeed, there have been isolated instances of cosmetic surgeons operating in private residences or small unlicensed clinics – neither can be termed an appropriate medical environment.

These and other incidents – such as the case of a Belarusian woman who died in 2010 after being given the wrong injection while she underwent a cosmetic procedure and the Emirati housewife who died after botched liposuction surgery in 2009 – underline why the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has urged patients to be vigilant and to rigorously check a surgeon’s credentials before going under the knife.

The DHA has also been taking further steps: conducting random inspections of health care facilities and auditing the performance of professionals. The DHA received 24 complaints last year. Other cases, meanwhile, have gone to court.

Such inspections will help achieve many things: they will weed out those who are not operating in the best interests of their patients, they will enhance the generally good reputation of this country’s health care sector and, by extension, they will help a growth industry expand still further.

A further safety check could be for all cosmetic surgery patients to be required to see a registered psychologist before their operation. Plastic surgery throws up some complex questions about body image and may not solve the self-esteem issues the patient hopes for. After all, aesthetic procedures deserve the same scrutiny as essential surgery.