Chapter 2 Page 2 | News Gets Around

The story certainly got my attention; At the time, I was in the early stages of research for this book. And I was appalled. The Dominican Republic was not on my short list of countries to write about. In fact, I knew next to nothing about it.  “I guess I won’t be suggesting people go there for surgery,” I said to a friend. “People really will think I’m crazy.”

I waited for a follow-up story …  that never came. No lipo-tourism sales network was closed down or even investigated; no beauty parlor operators were arrested. The story vanished from the news. It only resurfaced as a reference point anytime a reporter did a story about traveling abroad for plastic surgery.

It wasn’t until a year later that I had the opportunity to personally talk to some Dominican doctors about the story, and find out that the Dominican Society of Plastic Surgery had issued a statement refuting the allegations. It never made it into the New York Times. The only reference I could find was reported in the Dominican Republic news. I was able to find it on a Dominican Web site:

The president of the Dominican Society of Plastic Surgery, Julio Pena Encarnacion, says that there has not been a single case of skin infection in the Dominican Republic similar to the 11 patients from New York who have lodged complaints after having operations here. The cases, which are being investigated by a team of plastic surgeons and Public Health Ministry officials, resulted in abscesses and cutaneous [skin] rashes near the area on which the surgery was performed. Pena Encarnacion said that the cause of the infection could be related to the water used, the sterilization of the instruments, or the piercings or lesions resulting from treatments carried out in beauty parlors. Yesterday, anesthesiologist Ariel Perez said the reports are due to fear of competition in the plastic surgery field in the Dominican Republic. Pena was cautious when referring to the competitive zeal as being the motive for the grievances. As reported in [the newspaper] Diario Libree, he said:

“It could be a result of the competition because of the professional quality services being rendered here, but in the end, each patient opts for the physician they consider to be the most trustworthy.”

Pena mentioned that it is not only Dominicans living abroad who travel to their home country to have surgery, but also foreigners from the United States, Puerto Rico, Venezuela,  St. Thomas,  Argentina,  Switzerland and the Netherlands.

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