Doctor attacks breast augmentation package deal

PACKAGE DEAL: The Medi-cation deal advertised on
PACKAGE DEAL: The Medi-cation deal advertised on

A package holiday deal enticing women to travel to Thailand for a cheap breast augmentation has been criticised by a leading New Zealand plastic surgeon. posted the offer on its website on Wednesday, advertising breast augmentation surgery plus return flights and 12 nights accommodation in Phuket for $6495 through medical tourism company Medi-cation.

New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons President John de Waal said it was beyond belief anyone would even consider the promotional offer. Simple mathematics showed it was flawed.

"I don't think I need to say too much, you just need to do the maths," de Waal said.

"How much is an airfare to Thailand? How much is accommodation? How much are meals?

"In other words, what's left for the breast augmentation?"

Flight Centre quoted Fairfax Media $1660 for return flights to Phuket during the deal's travel period, and $540 for accommodation at the hotel specified in the package – leaving $4295 for the breast augmentation.

De Waal said a breast augmentation would cost between $11,000 and $13,500 in New Zealand.

"You wonder what on Earth you're getting [with the deal].

"It just doesn't add up economically – it's just not even in the ballpark."

Medi-cation was contacted by Fairfax Media today, but a spokeswoman was unavailable to respond to de Waal's comments.

De Waal said he was concerned with the standard of pre-procedure assessments involved in cut-price package deals for such a significant surgical procedure.

Medi-cation's terms and conditions said the company would assist with arrangements for a preliminary assessment and consultation shortly after purchase. That would involve the customer taking photographs which would be sent to the hospital in Phuket for examination and analysis.

"The hospital's medical team has a well-developed ability to use photographs to assess a customer's suitability for a standard breast augmentation.

"Naturally, however, a personal consultation and physical examination must be arranged prior to surgery."

De Waal saw his breast-augmentation patients for the first time for a consultation of an hour or more. They had to come back to him at least once more after a standdown of two weeks before he would even contemplate going ahead with the procedure.

"So in other words, we take it very seriously, and this just flies in the face of all those things that have been put in place – not just the advice of plastic surgeons but these are legal frameworks in New Zealand to protect people," de Waal said.

Medi-cation said an alternative procedure to the one bought with the deal might be recommended "in the unlikely event that the plastic surgeon advises at the final consultation that [the] procedure assessed from the photographs is not adequate for your needs".

The company said it offered a refund if a customer was not suited for the standard procedure and elected not to have an alternative procedure which might be offered at an additional cost.

De Waal said he often turned people down for procedures that were not in their best interests due to his medical and legal obligations.

He did not have a problem with medical tourism when it was subject to regulation and guidelines.

"I have great problems when you are going to a country that you would normally only go to for a good time and you are undertaking a long-term medical venture on a whim on a short visit, with no contemplation of long-term consequences or impact."

Medi-cation's terms and conditions limited the company's liability and said it was not responsible for "the quality or efficacy of any procedure or treatment, or for any injury or defect or disability which occurs during, or arises after or as a consequence of, any procedure or treatment".

De Waal said complications could include anaesthetic issues, bleeding, infection and scarring, which were the same with any operation.

"Those are general things, and those are just some of them, then there are specific problems related to breast augmentation – is the implant put in in the right position, will it stay in the right position, does it become deformed with time, are there any issues with the quality and long-term survival of the implant?

"With breast augmentations, if you have an infection, most of the time you will end up having your breast implant removed.

"Infections often don't show up until a few weeks after the augmentation – in other words if you had it done in Thailand you have arrived home by then, so what do you do?"

The whole concept was "just so out there" de Waal said he could not believe the deal was even available.