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Medical Tourism: Mommies Head To India For Makeovers

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India is becoming a hot stop for medical tourists. That's especially the case for those seeking cosmetic surgeries like "mommy makeovers," according to AFP.

In the case of three Ugandan women profiled by the agency, "India's relatively low costs, good medical facilities and English-speaking doctors were deciding factors in their choice." They came from east Africa to get tummy tucks and breast firming procedures to look "trimmer and healthier."

While recuperating post-op, the women also enjoyed two weeks of shopping and sightseeing trips. "It's been a girls-only fun trip for us," said one, a repeat visitor to India.

Medical tourism is not a new phenomenon. In 2009, Singapore considered a law that would prime the country for kidney transplant tourism. In 2011, Barbados saw a boost to its tourism sector thanks to an infertility clinic. Fertility clinic tourism also became popular in India in 2008.

It doesn't have to be all about new tummies or kidneys either. Some travelers just find procedures, like necessary dental work, more affordable in places like Romania.

"A 'mommy makeover' in countries such as the United States and Britain would cost nearly five times as much in India where an average bill would be about half a million rupees ($10,000)," Delhi plastic surgeon Ajaya Kashyap told AFP. His clinic sees 10 to 12 foreigners per month.

It's estimated that India's cosmetic surgery sector is growing by 20 to 30 percent annually.

Still, many point out that it's necessary to be vigilant when it comes to medical tourism. "Plastic surgery tourism is a reflection of both the best and worst of our global society." The old adage that "you get what you pay for" often holds true.

Others point out that medical tourism draws attention away from the terrible conditions that everyday Indians face in the country's hospitals. As a result of unrealistic expectations inside the country, the Indian government spends only 0.9 percent of its GDP on healthcare, ranking 171st out of 175 countries in public health spending, according to the World Health Organization.

To highlight one example of those conditions, just days ago an Indian hospital patient who is paralyzed was attacked by rats that gnawed on his ears, lips and nose.

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