Arizona woman had weight loss surgery in Mexico prior to death, family claims

Each year millions of Americans participate in medical tourism

An Arizona family is mourning the death of their 24-year-old daughter who they claim sought weight loss surgery in Mexico and later died in a hospital in her home state due to complications from the procedure. Dulce Herrera, who died in early May, allegedly traveled to Tijuana after being connected with the facility through a Facebook group. 

Her family, who spoke to ABC15.com, said she developed an infection in her intestines from the surgery and was hospitalized in Scottsdale when she returned home. The family said they are unsure if the doctor who performed the bariatric surgery was certified to do so, and alleged low cost may have played a role in her decision to travel for it. 

"If she could hear me now, I would tell her don’t do it," Maria Rodriguez, the woman’s mother, told ABC15.com. 

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Each year millions of Americans participate in medical tourism or traveling to another country in search of medical care. Reasons include cost, culture or even to seek care or therapy not available or approved in the U.S.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common procedures sought abroad include dental care, cosmetic surgery, fertility treatments, organ and tissue transplants and cancer treatment. 

"Your risk of complications depends on the destination, the facility where the procedure is being performed, and whether you are in the good physical and psychological condition for the procedure," the CDC states. 

Other issues that increase the risk of complications include infectious disease, antibiotic resistance, quality of care, communication challenges, air travel and continuity of care. The CDC advises seeking pre-travel consultation, travel health insurance, bringing copies of medical records, packing a travel health kit and getting all medical records post-procedure before returning home. 

The agency urges thorough research into the health care provider and facility where the procedure will take place, and checking with accrediting groups. 

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"Overseas facilities may not maintain accreditation or provider licensure, track patient outcome data, or maintain formal medical record privacy or security policies," the CDC warns. "Medical tourists should also be aware that the drugs and medical products and devices used in foreign countries might not be subject to the same regulatory scrutiny and oversight as in the United States. In addition, some drugs may be counterfeit or otherwise ineffective (for example, expired, contaminated, or improperly stored)."