Inside Britain's deadly, celebrity-inspired craze for Turkish surgery

Inside Britain's deadly, celebrity-inspired craze for Turkish surgery

Inside UK’s deadly, celebrity-inspired craze for Turkish surgery – as campaigners call for patients to pay ‘Turkey tax’ to help NHS claw back £2m each year to correct botched ops

  • Experts call for action on 24 Brits dead, scores more maimed, and £1.7m NHS bill
  • Have you had botched surgery abroad? Contact [email protected]  

Brits wanting cut-price cosmetic surgery abroad should be made to pay a ‘Turkey Tax’, experts have today demanded amid calls for a crackdown to stop more Brits dying unnecessarily. 

Tens of thousands of Brits, particularly women in their 20s and 30s, flock to Europe for boob jobs, bum lifts and lip enhancements every year. 

Turkey has become one of the most popular destinations, fuelled by celebrities and influencers who’ve made the 4-hour trip in pursuit of revamping their bodies. 

Clinics also offer luxurious ‘all-inclusive’ packages at five-star hotels, complete with meals and VIP transport. Such deals, on sale for in the region of £2,500, include the treatments themselves.

But despite seeming safe on the surface, Turkey is called the ‘capital of butchery’ by campaigners. 

Dozens of ordinary patients have shared their horror stories at the hands of ‘cowboy’ surgeons, including some who needed life-saving treatment as soon as they landed back on UK soil. Correcting such botched ops costs taxpayers millions every year.

At least 24 Bris have also died going under the knife in Turkey since 2019, where standards are notoriously laxer than in the NHS. Surgical aftercare can be non-existent, too, argue victims of the procedures.

MailOnline will this weekend expose many of the underhanded tactics deployed by predatory Turkish clinics to lure Brits overseas.

Turkish clinics offer packages including VIP airport transfers in ‘luxury vehicles’ and 5-star hotel stays with breakfast. Some even promise free tours of cities like Istanbul and the choice to take another guest at no additional cost, as well as 24/7 emergency lines, overnight nurse visits and even massages

Liposuction that offers to remove up to 15 litres of fat, Brazilian butt lifts, eye colour changing laser treatments and hymenoplasties are all offered in clinics across Turkey

Dawn Knight, a prolific campaigner against poor cosmetic surgery, is one of those urging the Government to immediately crackdown on the tactics.

She told this website: ‘Something has to change.

‘A compulsory insurance of some sort should be introduced, so that the NHS can recoup the costs.

‘We can’t continue in this way with a struggling NHS, no money to pay doctors and nurses what they deserve yet our NHS picks up the bill for botched surgery abroad.’

Labour MP Kevan Jones is another urging action, saying the Government must act to bring ‘cowboy surgeons’ to account and that ‘anybody considering cosmetic surgery should not go to Turkey’. 

British surgeons have also told MailOnline that Turkey’s cosmetic clinics are using the NHS as a safety net for poor surgical care.

Estimates put the beleaguered health service’s botched surgery bill for 2022 alone at about £1.7million, a record figure that is itself considered a gross underestimate of the problem.

Dawn Knight, who has campaigned against poor practices in cosmetic surgery, said Turkish medics treat the UK as a honeypot and something must be done

Brits themselves have shared horrific stories of the injuries they have suffered at the hands of Turkish clinics with some taking months to heal, if ever.   

Some ex-patients have told this website of being stitched up so tight their wounds burst open when they moved, with others describing being left with necrotic nipples from botched boob jobs.

While Turkey isn’t the only surgical destination, it is by far one of the most popular. 

Cheap flights between the UK and Turkish cities have made it one of the leading destinations for Brits wanting to go under the knife. 

Part of the reason is the rise of ‘all-inclusive’ surgical holiday deals that are marketed to Brits looking for cosmetic surgery to entice them to Turkish clinics.

Turkish clinics frequently offer such packages including VIP airport transfers in ‘luxury vehicles’ and 5-star hotel stays with breakfast included to sweeten the deal.

One Istanbul-based surgery, has partnered with British OnlyFans model Phoebe Bartlett to offer her followers a £100 discount code

Experts say TOWIE icons have helped fuel the ever-growing trend for cut-price cosmetic surgery abroad. Pictured left to right: Amber Turner, Yazmin Oukhellou, Dani Imbert, Junaid Ahmed, Megan McKenna, Bobby Norris and Lauren Goodger

British surgeons have raised the alarm about the rising multi-million cost of fixing botched cosmetic ops performed overseas, with one case alone costing the NHS an estimated £100,000

MailOnline found some cosmetic surgery packages in Turkey being sold for under £3,000. 

But UK surgeons and the NHS itself advise against buying cosmetic surgery as part of a holiday, warning it ‘trivialises’ the life-changing decision and underplays the rest and recovery needed after a major operation. 

Another recent tactic used by Turkish clinics, uncovered by this website, is the use of OnlyFans models to promote surgical procedures to body-conscious British women.

In some cases, adult stars are even teaming up with clinics to offer discount codes to ‘get a body’ like their own.

Celebrities also have a role to play in popularising the trend of heading to Turkey for quick surgical touch-up.

Whether its BBLs, lipo, boob jobs or even Turkey teeth, reality stars have piled on the pressure for Brits to go under the knife abroad, campaigners say. 

Once committed to have a procedure in Turkey, Brits will have an array of procedures to select from that aren’t generally offer in the UK. 

But as surgeons have told MailOnline, that is often for a very good reason. 

These can range from ‘extreme BBLs’ and ‘mega liposuctions’ that no reputable UK surgeon would dream of attempting.

Numerous Turkish clinics even offer the banned ‘virginity repair’ surgery, a procedure made illegal in the UK over its role in honour-based violence. 

Labour MP for North Durham Kevan Jones MP is campaigning for more action to stop overseas ‘cowboy’ surgeons butchering Brits abroad 

Its not just a wider range of surgery that is on offer, but a wider range of patients as well.

Some Turkish surgeons show a remarkably willingness to perform cosmetic procedures on British patients deemed too fat, unhealthy, or with health conditions that make them too high risk of a risk to go under the knife in Britain. 

One UK surgeon described a case where a morbidly obese, 60-year-old wheelchair-bound woman with a host of health conditions was offered a combined tummy tuck and liposuction in Turkey.

The result was a series of life-saving NHS health interventions to stop deadly blood clots and flesh-eating infections upon her return to the UK, at a cost of £100,000 to the taxpayer.

UK surgeons have said the above case is just one example of how some Turkish clinics are using Britain’s health service as their surgical aftercare service, part of why their procedures are so cheap in the first place.

And there are signs the problem is only getting worse. 

Figures from the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) show the total number of overseas cosmetic operations being fixed on the NHS in 2022 was 35 per cent higher than the previous year.

What experts at the time hoped was just pent-up demand after the Covid pandemic disrupted international air-travel is looking more like a booming business model for Turkey’s cosmetic surgery industry

All the known Brit fatalities in Turkey from surgery

At least 24 Brits have died as a result of medical tourism trips to Turkey since January 2019, according to the Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Here, MailOnline highlights some of the victims.

Leah Cambridge

Leah Cambridge, 29, suffered a blood clot during a £6,500 Brazilian butt lift surgery in Turkey. 

Leah Cambridge, 29, died after having the ‘Brazilian butt lift’ procedure in Turkey 

The mother-of-three, from Leeds, died just one day after travelling to an Elite Aftercare clinic in Turkey in August 2018. 

The trainee beautician, described as being ‘paranoid about her body’, paid in cash for the procedure after being inspired by pictures on Instagram. 

The procedure involved having fat extracted from the waist and injected into the buttocks.

But she suffered a fatal complication when fat was accidentally injected into a vein causing her to have three heart attacks on the operating table.

Ms Cambridge’s partner Scott Franks told Wakefield Coroner’s Court that the surgeon who carried out the procedure told him he had ‘injected the fat too far into the muscle and it entered her veins’. 

Mr Franks said when he flew out to Turkey after his partner died, Dr Ali Uckan, the surgeon who treated Leah, had told him: ‘It’s a guessing game, you can’t see where you are going into.’ 

Ms Cambridge father, Craig, took his own life in 2021 with an inquest held in July last year hearing how he was never able to get past the loss of his daughter. 

Diarra Akua Eunice Brown

Diarra Brown, 28, died after having liposuction in Turkey

Diarra Akua Eunice Brown, died aged 28, two days after getting liposuction at a clinic in the suburb of Bahcelievler in Istanbul, in October 2021. 

She reportedly underwent the operation to have fat removed from her hips. 

While the procedure initially appeared to be a success, Ms Brown ‘suddenly’ fell ill while having her dressings changed.

She died just hours later. 

Social media posts from family and friends described her as a ‘beautiful soul’ and a ‘close friend’.

‘This must be a dream,’ one post said. ‘Still can’t come to terms with this yet.’

‘I miss you angel. I’m devastated you were taken away way before your time,’ said another.

Shannon Bowe

Shannon Bowe, 28 died after undergoing gastric band surgery in Turkey

Shannon Bowe, from Denny, near Falkirk, died while undergoing gastric band surgery in Turkey in April 2023. 

The 28-year-old passed away during the procedure which involves placing a band around the stomach.

Where exactly Ms Bowe had the procedure in Turkey and the complication that led to her death have not been revealed.

In the aftermath of her death, Ms Bowe’s boyfriend Ross Stirling wrote on social media: ‘Sleep tight my angel, love you forever and always.’

Gastric band surgery involves a doctor placing a gastric band around the top of the stomach, creating a small pouch.

When the patient eats, this small pouch fills up more quickly than their stomach normally would, making them feel fuller with less food.

By encouraging them to eat less, the procedure can help patients lose weight.  

Melissa Kerr

Melissa Kerr, 31, of Gorleston, Norfolk, died after having a BBL in Turkey

Melissa Kerr, 31, died while undergoing a Brazilian butt lift in Turkey in 2019, just before her wedding.

Ms Kerr traveled to Istanbul’s Medicana Haznedar Hospital in November that year for gluteal augmentation, which can cost up to £3,150. 

The psychological wellbeing practitioner, from Gorleston, Norfolk, died from a blocked artery in her lung as a result of undergoing the surgery.  

Her twin sister Natasha who set up a page after her death described her a ‘a pure and beautiful soul inside and out’.

She said: ‘Words cannot describe the pain and heartbreak we are going through, life without her will never be the same again.

‘We miss her deeply and nothing will fill the emptiness we are left with.’

Melissa’s partner Skye Birch said: ‘I will continue to love you with all my heart until my last breath.’ 

Ms Kerr also worked as a volunteer helping domestic violence victims and supporting people through bereavement.

Abimbola Ajoke Bamgbose 

Abimbola Ajoke Bamgbose, 38, died after liposuction in Turkey

Abimbola Ajoke Bamgbose, a 38-year-old social worker, from Dartford, Kent, died in August 2020 after undergoing liposuction surgery in Turkey. 

The mother-of-three bought an overseas package deal with Mono Cosmetic Surgery after becoming fed-up with people asking her if she was pregnant, according to her husband. 

A post-mortem examination found that Mrs Bamgbose suffered perforations to her bowel during the surgery, with the cause of death given as peritonitis with multiple organ failure. 

Peritonitis is an infection of the peritoneum, the inner lining of the tummy which covers vital internal organs like the kidneys, liver and bowel.

Her husband Moyosore Olowo told an inquest he was unaware his wife had traveled abroad for cosmetic surgery, instead believing she had simply gone on a holiday with her friends. 

It was not until Mrs Bamgbose called her husband to say she was suffering from stomach pains following the procedure that he found out what had happened. 

Mr Olowo said his wife had visited a private medical practice in the UK for surgery but added that the cost had been too high for her to have the treatment in Britain.

Carol Keenan

Carol Keenan, 54, died after having a BBL and tummy tuck in Turkey

Carol Keenan, 54, died six days after undergoing a combined Brazilian butt lift and tummy tuck in Turkey.  

The grandmother, of Glenrothes, Fife, paid £7,000 for the procedures at  a private hospital in Istanbul in 2022 after becoming anxious about the way her body looked.

Ms Keenan also accepted the offer of free abdominal muscle repair surgery shortly before she was taken into the operating theatre.

But she died before she was due to have a final check up and fly home.

Speaking to MailOnline in April, her family said they are still waiting for the results of her autopsy 11 months on from her death.

Her daughter Leonie Keenan, 32, said: ‘My mother was a fit and healthy individual. She was a very petite size 10 and she kept in shape by walking everywhere and going swimming.

‘She was a very active grandmother who loved bouncing on the trampoline with the kids-but she was not happy with her body even though everyone told her she looked great.

‘She set her heart on having surgery after seeing stories about other people and celebrities having procedures. I don’t know if it was like a mid-life crisis.’

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