PEOPIL Conference 2013 in Lisbon
Cape Town Attorney Tzvi Brivik recently returned from Lisbon, Portugal where he addressed the Pan European Organization of Personal Injury Lawyers (PEOPIL) annual medical negligence and tourism conference. The subject of his presentation was Medical Tourism to South Africa.
PEOPIL was established as a not for profit organisation in 1998 to improve and promote judicial co-operation and mutual knowledge of legal and judicial systems of various jurisdictions in the field of personal injury law. It has the support of the European Union / Commission Directorate General Freedom, Security and Justice Framework Programme.
Amongst other things it promotes access to the legal system for consumers suffering personal injury as well as higher standards of care and safety for consumers.
It also seeks to ensure proper and fair compensation to victims in personal injury cases.
The Conference focused particularly on health tourism otherwise referred to as cosmetic tourism. Presentations were made by practitioners and medical specialists from various jurisdictions including the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic.
Medical Malpractice was discussed by a practising UK Plastic Surgeon. A renowned Bariatric Surgeon delivered a fascinating presentation on the causes and effects of obesity and the treatments available drawing attention to the potential complications and the likely litigation as a result.
What became evident during the course of the conference was the extent to which cosmetic surgery conducted abroad was being marketed to clients, in association with holidays and safaris.
Clients do not have the benefit of pre- surgery consultations with the surgeon operating in most instances. Although they are free to contact “a consultant” this usually means a call centre employee who is trained to answer very basic questions relating to the travel and tourism aspect of the surgery. Some of the reasons given by clients as to why they travel abroad for cosmetic surgery are that it was cheaper; it was not available immediately in their home countries; and it could be performed discreetly.
Many countries market medical tourism proactively including Austria, Cyprus, The Czech Republic, South Africa, Romania and Malta. It is estimated that in the UK there are as many as 70 000 medical tourists a year travelling abroad for treatment. The treatment ranges from dental (31.8%), obesity (8.9%) and cosmetic (41.4%).
Tzvi Brivik was invited to speak about the South African experience. The presentation was loosely based on a case of a foreign medical tourist who pursued a claim against a local surgeon and clinic where she had undergone cosmetic surgery. The presentation included discussion on how the claim would be assessed and what constitutes negligence in SA Law, how the claim would be valued and what investigation would be required, how the client would engage the services of a specialist attorney locally and the quantum of the compensation.
South Africa is a tempting destination for medical tourists not only because of its natural beauty but also because of the high level of care which a patient can expect to receive in most clinics as well as the good value in respect of procedures as a result of the favourable exchange rate to foreigners, 96% of all UK medical tourists to South Africa indicated that were they to choose further surgery they would return to South Africa.
The conference was well attended and included a formal dinner of local cuisine. The Conference was attended by representatives of some of the largest personal injury law firms in Europe as well as representatives of travel insurers.
NOTE: Tzvi Brvik is a specialist attorney in Personal Injury and Labour Law and a Director of Malcolm Lyons & Brivik Inc. He is also a governor of PEOPIL representing South Africa.