A plastic surgeon warned Thursday against traveling abroad for cosmetic surgeries following the death of a New York woman who had sought a procedure in the Dominican Republic, marking the third such fatality in the Caribbean country in recent weeks.
Dr. David Cangello, a board-certified plastic surgeon, told "Fox & Friends" that there is a substantial risk involved in "medical tourism," especially in developing countries like the Dominican Republic, because the standards of doctor certifications and facility management are not the same as in the United States.
His comments came after a New York mother, 33-year-old Alexandra Medina, died on the operating table of a pulmonary embolism at a clinic in Santo Domingo after undergoing liposuction and tummy tuck surgery. It was the third incident this summer after New Yorker Manuel Joe Nunez, 28, and Alabama teacher Alicia Williams, 45, both died after traveling to the Dominican Republic for plastic surgeries.
"The reality is that complications can occur in the best of hands and in the best of clinics, so pulmonary embolism is something that can occur, but we know here in the United States with the board-certified plastic surgeons, you can expect that the proper precautions will be taken to prevent these sorts of devastating complications," Cangello said.
He added that patients may not know who the doctors are that are performing surgeries on them. In the case of Nunez, the practitioner was identified as Dr. Oscar Polanco, a gynecologist, not a plastic surgeon, who has previously been ordered to pay large settlements to families of women who died after operations by him, according to Pix 11.
In Medina's case, the clinic she visited, the Doctor Urenea Arias clinic, has since been shut down. Her doctor was identified as Felix Almanzar, who was also reportedly not a licensed surgeon.
Cangello said that in addition to confusion surrounding the legitimacy of practitioners at these clinics, they are also not held to the same safety standards as those in the U.S.
"Things we don't think about, water supply, ventilation to the facility itself, the standards just aren't the same," he said. "So if the water supply, for example, were contaminated, and then that water supply is used during procedures or to sterilize instruments and the instruments become contaminated, that can lead to infections and those, of course, can be life-threatening.".
He added that the situation is "very complex," but that three deaths caused by plastic surgery in the same country in a short period of time are a "red flag."
The situation comes in light of a number of suspicious deaths of vacationers in the Dominican Republic who died after visiting a number of popular resorts.