A coroner has urged surgeons conducting the “Brazilian butt lift” to consider whether it is safe to continue to offer the operation following the death of a mother-of-three.
Leah Cambridge, 29, saved up thousands of pounds to have the procedure done in Izmir, Turkey, last August after feeling “paranoid about her body”.
But the beautician, from Leeds, died while undergoing the controversial operation, where fat is removed from certain areas of the body, including the stomach and back, and then transferred into the buttocks to achieve an hourglass figure.
Her inquest at Wakefield Coroner’s Court heard how she booked the surgery against the wishes of her partner, Scott Franks, through a company named Elite Aftercare, which offers clients a package that includes a stay in a villa.
Recording a conclusion that Miss Cambridge died having the Brazilian butt lift (BBL) after not being fully appraised of the risks involved, coroner Kevin McLoughlin said: “Against this backdrop, those involved in facilitating or conducting BBL procedures must decide whether it’s safe to continue to do so.
“In my judgement, this decision should be made on ethical grounds, rather than business ones relating to the revenue streams involved.”
He added: “At the very least, anyone thinking of submitting themselves to the hazards associated with the BBL should seek out independent medical advice. Make sure that you fully understand the risks before you proceed.”
In October last year, the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) warned its members not to perform the operation until further information on its dangers could be obtained.
A consultant plastic surgeon told the inquest on Thursday that any UK-wide ban on the operation could prompt potential customers to go abroad to have it done.
Discussing this, Mr McLoughlin said: “I believe that our foremost duty is to protect our citizens from what maybe is considered to be their own folly.
“If the approach that I am considering involves a paternalistic despotism, the process of curtailing individual freedom may be considered to be a price worth paying
“What’s more, if the UK takes a stance this may affect the prevailing view from other countries.”
The coroner added that he would write to the Secretary of State for Health regarding the procedure.
The three-day inquest heard how Miss Cambridge, who has three young boys, travelled to Turkey with her mother, Theresa Hall, on the night of August 26 last year.
On arrival the following morning, they were taken straight to the Izmir Private Can Hospital.
Miss Hall told the inquest how forms, including documents regarding the risks involved in the surgery, were thrust in front of her daughter and there seemed to be little time before Miss Cambridge was taken down to have the operation.
The coroner said evidence suggesting that Miss Cambridge entered the operating theatre around an hour and a half after arrival at the hospital implies “that there was no real opportunity for Leah to read, digest or raise issue with the documents put before her that morning, even if she had wanted to”.
He added: “The death of Leah clearly was a devastating tragedy for her family. They thought, no doubt, that she was going for a safe cosmetic procedure and the thought that she may lose her life was probably never in their contemplation, or in Leah’s.”
Giving evidence, Mr Franks said that as soon as he heard of his partner’s death he flew to Turkey and met the surgeon who performed the operation, Dr Ali Uckan.
Mr Franks added that Dr Uckan said of the operation: “It’s a guessing game, you can’t see where you are going into.
“It’s a matter of life and death when you are doing it.”
Mr McLoughlin said that he had written to Dr Uckan eight times to invite him to attend the inquest but only received a page-and-a-half statement from the surgeon.
The coroner said: “The conclusion I am left with is that Dr Uckan’s conduct is a display of cowardice.
“I do not use that word lightly, and I cannot remember any inquest where it has arisen.”
Consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon Simon Withey told the inquest that a US taskforce set up in 2015 suggested that the mortality rate for BBLs could be as high as one in every 2,600 and one in every 6,000 surgeries.
Dr Lisa Barker, a consultant histopathologist for Leeds Teaching Hospitals, said Miss Cambridge died after fat entered her circulatory system and eventually blocked the pulmonary artery to the lungs.
In a statement issued by Minton Morrill solicitors on behalf of Miss Cambridge’s family, they said she “will be missed forever by all and our lives will never be the same”.
The statement added: “We hope that no one has to go through what we have been through and nobody else loses their life while undergoing this type of procedure.”