The UK government has issued a Turkey travel warning regarding medical tourism.
“We are aware of 22 British nationals who have died in Turkey since January 2019 following medical tourism visits,” reads its travel advice page for the country.
Tourists are advised to stick to medical providers who are approved by Turkey’s Ministry of Health.
What is medical tourism?
The term ‘medical tourism’, sometimes called ‘health tourism’, refers to tourists heading abroad for medical treatment. Cosmetic surgery, dental procedures and cardiac surgery are among the most common procedures.
Low costs and availability of treatments that are approved in their home country are two possible lures for medical tourists.
Some of the key risks include complications such as infections and antibiotic resistance, lack of rigorous licensing and regulation in some countries, and lack of follow-up care when the patients return home.
What can go wrong with health tourism?
A woman from Manchester in the UK spoke out earlier this year after travelling to Turkey for tooth implants.
After waking up from the procedure, she said, “I had big gaps underneath my gums, and you could see all the metal bits (of the implants). It was done so badly it was unbelievable,” Rida Azeem said.
“Originally, they were going to do five implants,” she says. But when the treatment was about to start, the dentists told her they would “have to remove all your teeth”.
Read more details and watch a video about her story here.
Which countries are popular for medical tourism?
According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, over 640,000 health tourists visited Turkey in 2021, bringing in almost €1 billion in revenue.
This makes Turkey one of the world’s leading destinations for dental tourism, with 150,000 to 250,000 foreign patients flocking to the country every year for dental treatment, according to the Turkish Dental Association.
Hungary, Thailand and Dubai are also popular for dental work, while India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore and South Korea are known for health tourism.
Is it safe to travel abroad for medical procedures?
Since the standard of medical facilities and available treatments varies widely around the world, it is important carry out thorough research before going ahead with any procedures abroad.
“It is unwise to rely upon private companies that have a financial interest in arranging your medical treatment abroad,” warns the UK government.
Turkey has made headlines in recent months with the term ‘Turkey teeth’ trending in response to reports of botched dental treatments in the country.
If you are planning to visit Turkey for a medical procedure, you should head to the HeathTurkiye website to find medical providers who are approved by the Ministry of Health.