Controversies in bariatric surgery| Volume 7, ISSUE 5, P652-654, September 2011

Medical tourism and bariatric surgery

      Patient X was a 40-year-old woman living in north Texas who weighed 300 lb. Recognizing the obvious health dangers of her obesity and having had no success with traditional diets, she wanted to undergo a bariatric surgical procedure in which her stomach would be made smaller and cause her to eat less, thus enabling her to lose weight. However, despite the increasingly well-known health dangers of obesity, her insurance company would not cover this elective procedure. The best price that she could find in the United States was $24,000; however, in Mexico, she found an alluring bargain at just $12,000. Thus, she traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, and had undergone the procedure 1 year earlier. When she returned home, she began to slowly starve to death from a botched duodenal switch. Her doctors told her that scar tissue had formed between her stomach and esophagus, leaving an opening only the size of a pin, which led to malnutrition. She required further surgery to save her life. Although she had been to the emergency room 3 times, no hospital would cover her care because she had neither insurance nor the money to pay for the needed surgery. When she contacted the surgeon in Mexico and told him of her problem, he advised that she was not eating correctly. When she requested her money back to help pay for the care she needed, she never heard from him again. She finally found a bariatric surgeon in the United States to work with her on the needed surgery; however, she is now both unemployed and $70,000 in debt [
      • Horansky A.
      Texas woman nearly dies after surgery in Mexico KVUE News 2011.
      ]. Such can be the real cost of the adventure for the medical tourist.
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