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Philippine Medical Tourism & the Woes of Louem Martinez

Imagine yourself in a pristine white sand beach enjoying what the tropical paradise has to offer sipping a cocktail relaxing in all serenity…… heaven, pure heaven with no worries in the world away from the rat race unwinding in your own leisure time. Welcome to the wonderful mecca of Philippine Medical Tourism .........

Everything is so cheap where your depreciated dollars go a long way, people catering to your every whims and caprice not a worry in the world. Ideal, isn’t it?

That is exactly what the brochures and internet site entice you, vacationing in the Philippines’ beautiful tropical paradise while at the same time taking a journey towards life-enhancing cosmetic surgery procedures which can restore or enhance your features. A trip so rewarding in terms of gaining inner confidence looking and feeling years younger in your quest for affordable rejuvenation at a significant cost savings that you can only dream of is possible in the tropics.

The growing industry shows a lot of potential that the Philippines have included medical tourism in their government program to get a share of the burgeoning market of neighboring Asian countries.

All is well that ends well in a fairy tall tale, but what happens if somewhere along the line something goes awry and instead of the enhancement you expect from the medical procedure it went south causing undue physical and psychological damage. What will you do? How will you deal with the problem when you are already back home thousands of miles away?

A boon or vain or worse a botched procedure that may not just leave you with a scar or permanent damage to the most delicate part of your body where you dread the most in joining the bandwagon of Philippine Medical Tourism but psychological as well.

That is exactly what happened to Filipino American Louem Martinez also known as Louem Boschuk who underwent a procedure for penile enlargement and ended up in pain and his cherished possession disfigured. Ouch!

At the risk of being the subject of ridicule it took some cajones or should we say his balls are still intact went to a lawyer and filed a P26 million suit against the doctor. Filing a case against the husband and wife popularly known as the “Doctors to the stars” Manuel and Rosario Calayan, registered owners of the Calayan Surgicenter for the botched procedure in 2007. Indeed a mess that Happy Thoughts wished Louem Martinez should have first researched Maxoderm: An alternative for men, than underwent the procedure avoiding the end result of having a "badly deformed, sagged and bumped" prized possession.

Take note, if ever you are contemplating on enhancing your “prized” possession you should check out the Philippine laws and regulation first because they are not exactly the same laws and regulation that you see in the US that protects the patient that holds the medical profession to the highest ethical standards. Also, while there are laws to that effect you have to make sure that the establishment you are dealing with strictly abide and follow said rules and regulations. After all, it is still a nation where corruption is so endemic that some people actually thrived on it and thus skirting the law is a common accepted practice.

It’s a messy legal battle with the Calayans' insisting that the patient signed a liability release form which the patient claimed was shoved to him by the clinics' personnel and no one explained exactly what it means. On the other hand Calayan insist that he explained everything to him and has been doing this procedure for quite some time. Confusing I should say especially when claims and counter claims are opposite what both parties are saying. What is interesting is that the substance used to enhance Martinez pride and glory errr however you want to call it should be enough for one to be ultra cautious if one is contemplating this kind of procedure or any procedure for that matter, to quote:

He and his lawyer Dioscoro Peligro showed reporters a letter from the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) stating aquagel and aquamid are two different products and chemicals.

I have been told that aquagel is banned, while aquamid needs a permit for its importation and that this has already expired in 2006,” Martinez said.

In the letter, BFAD director Leticia Barbara Gutierrez said both aquagel and aquamid are “medical devices and their registration prior to importation and sale is mandatory.”

“Calayan Surgicenter Corp. is not the licensed importer of the above products,” Gutierrez said.

I know I heard this before that an illegal contract is not enforceable so I just don’t know if this applies in this case. If what the lawyer of Martinez is saying is true then a banned or illegal substance was used to enhance Martinez “pride and glory” that is now deformed so that should really give people the creeps if they are contemplating on similar procedure in the Philippines. Unless one is willing to risk ones deformed "pride and glory" and the hassles of messy lawsuits and counter suits, as shown in this case:

“I did not participate in any of the medical procedures performed on the complainant, nor did I give any opinion or medical advice to the complainant,” she said, adding that Martinez was never her patient.

In her complaint-affidavit filed in April, Rosario Calayan claimed there was no legal basis to hold her liable as she has never met Martinez nor did the patient consult with her.

She also accused the patient of perjury and unjust vexation because of the “malicious filing of the baseless criminal complaint.

Her lawyer Reggie Ukol maintained that such circumstances do not immediately hold her liable for the supposed crime.

“Those circumstance don't mean that there was a conspiracy to commit the crime,” he said in an interview Thursday.

A patient seeking redress for his deformed pride and glory being counter sued is not pleasant and truly makes it a horrible experience. Top that with a banned device if it is true as claimed by Martinez lawyer and BFAD Director Gutierrez implanted inside your body is not exactly safe and reassuring. Calayan claims that it was Aquamid that he used and just made a mistake in saying Aquagel but the point is these substances are irrelevant if both were not approved by BFAD. Think of what will happen if a woman goes for breast augmentation, or reshaping some snub nosed Filipinos that may end up shaped into a bursting tomato using banned medical devices is just scary..... yikes and you get bullied with a counter lawsuit is like adding insult to injury and what about organ transplant? Oh never mind, lets deal with that some other time.......

The problem started when Martinez went to doctor Calayan for the removal of a cyst through Liposuction and the penile enlargement was supposedly an added bonus or part of the package deal. Now what was that all about? Liposuction to remove a cyst? Guess how that turned out? According to the new P14 million complaint of estafa and reckless imprudence resulting in serious physical injury filed by Martinez the operation did not work and the cyst instead spread and grew bigger.

The bottom line is that you get what you paid for and come to think of it the hassles of the court system is not something one enthusiastically wants to get involved with. Dealing with the court system is bad enough and to get entangled in the justice system in the Philippines that is perceived by the public to be corrupt is an experience you don't want to be in. Then the distance which is thousands of miles away does not help either and the time, energy and resources you spend in going back and forth in a court system that is known for its turtle paced disposition is a very expensive proposition. What about the unrealized income that you will lose for the time you have to spend flying back and forth to attend your hearings? Is it worth it?

Luckily or perhaps unluckily whichever way you want to look at it this case was noticed by the press thus hopefully will send a message that people are watching attentively on how this will unfold. But that alone is not a guarantee that the aggrieved party will get justice so what happens if the case is not a celebrated case, what are the chances of getting a decision in favor of the aggrieved party? How many more botched procedures are out there that the victims are not reporting for fear of ridicule and the scandalous embarrassment one has to go through? Can't get enough of this, here go see the news video on this botched procedure.

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