‘Our hearts are broken,’ says family of grandmother who died after undergoing cosmetic surgery in Turkey

Woman (50s) becomes eighth known person who has travelled from Ireland and died during or after treatment in the country

The family of a grandmother who died after undergoing cosmetic surgery in Turkey has said their “hearts are broken” following her sudden death.

The woman, who was in her 50s and originally from Portugal, had travelled to Turkey for the surgery. She died eight days ago on July 15th.

Her family set up a fundraising campaign in an effort to repatriate her body back to Ireland, which was successful after €11,000 was donated. They held a cremation for her in Shannon Crematorium, Co Clare. Her family thanked members of the public for their “kindness and thoughtfulness which has been shown to them at this very sad time”, they said on rip.ie.

The woman has become the eighth known person who travelled from Ireland who has died during or after cosmetic and dental surgery in Turkey. Not all cases are notified to the Department of Foreign Affairs but officials within the Health Service Executive believe the number of people who have died is far greater while the number of those who have received treatment abroad and have had to have emergency follow-up treatment in Ireland is soaring.


The Department of Foreign Affairs was contacted for comment.

In May, a man died during a dental procedure in Turkey, which at that point brought to seven the number of people who have died in the country while availing of medical and cosmetic treatment.

It is understood that the man died while undergoing a dental procedure in Turkey on May 28th and his remains have since been repatriated back to Ireland.

As medical tourism grows in popularity, particularly to Turkey due to lower costs, a number of Irish people have now died over the past two years while they were undergoing dental and cosmetic procedures.

Highly placed sources in the Department of Foreign Affairs and the HSE are “extremely concerned” over the number of deaths which have occurred while Irish citizens are increasingly seeking treatment outside of the European Union.

A HSE management source said that what is driving their concern is that members of the public travelling outside of the EU for such treatment “do not have to have a GP letter or a consultant referral. The systems are unregulated and unregistered. They do not follow the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) guidelines.

“It is vitally important to have a GP letter explaining the patient’s medical details and to have a detailed consultant’s referral to an equivalent consultant/specialist abroad. Without those problems can happen.”

Hiqa is an independent authority established to drive high-quality and safe care for people using our health and social care services in Ireland.

The source added: “The patients and their family have no indemnity cover, that is they are not protected or compensated if anything goes wrong against a loss or other financial burden.”

Since the Cross Border Directive (CBD) was introduced in 2014, which is a scheme to get planned healthcare in another EU or European Economic Area (EEA) member state, just two people have died. One person died in Lithuania during bariatric surgery while the second died in Spain while undergoing a general surgical procedure.

Under the scheme, the patient pays for necessary treatment in another EU or EEA country upfront and then applies to the HSE for reimbursement of the treatment cost.

All issues as a result of their deaths would have been dealt with by the HSE and the Department of Health as they would have followed the correct procedures.

Dr Brian Higgins, a GP from Galway Primary Care, said the CBD is a method of people accessing healthcare in other countries that will be supported here by the State, and people can go to Northern Ireland, England and other European countries where they can actually go and pay for surgery and then the State will reimburse them.

Speaking on TodayFM’s Last Word, Dr Higgins said the CBD is a “very legitimate process” where they will be referred by a doctor here. The same as we would refer somebody to a public or private hospital here.

“It’s a very different thing from someone googling a procedure that they think they need, seeing a very well marketed clinic abroad, which can look very, very professional, and deciding themselves without support from a medical professional here about which clinic to go to, and unfortunately that can go wrong quite often. When people find their own services you never know what you are going to get,” he said.

“I’ve had patients who have gone overseas for bariatric surgery and they’ve never seen a psychologist, they’ve never seen a dietitian and they’ve been sent home here to Ireland with no information of the hugely new approach they need for their diet and they become very unwell from nutritional deficiency.

“Even though the quality of the surgery might be very good, if people don’t have that really important follow-on care ... it’s not a really good or safe service.”

However, an Ombudsman report on the CBD, titled In Sickness and in Debt, published in April, advised that he did “not believe there is any basis on which the HSE can insist that a patient making an application for reimbursement under CBD must have had their outpatient consultation on a date prior to their admission/treatment as opposed to, for example, a consultation on the same day but prior to their admission/treatment”.