Great Britain

British woman died during 'Brazilian butt lift' operation after travelling to Turkey for surgery

A British mother-of-three died during a “Brazilian butt lift” operation after saving up £6,500 to have the surgery in Turkey, an inquest heard.

Leah Cambridge, 29, had seen the operation advertised on Instagram and was keen to have the work done after becoming “paranoid about her body”.

However she may not have been fully aware of the risks of the procedure before consenting to the surgery at Izmir Private Can Hospital in August last year.

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The operation involves reshaping the buttocks using fat removed from some areas of the body, such as the stomach and back.

Ms Cambridge, a beautician from Leeds, died after fat entered her circulatory system and eventually blocked the pulmonary artery to the lungs. 

Her mother, Theresa Hall, told the inquest at Wakefield Coroner’s Court she travelled to Turkey with her daughter on the night of August 26 last year after the procedure was booked through Elite Aftercare.

When they arrived Ms Cambridge was given forms and documents which outlined some of the safety risks associated with the surgery.

Ms Hall said it “all felt like such a rush”, and that she believed her daughter was pressured into reading and signing the papers as quickly as possible so that the operation could start.

Simon Withey, a consultant plastic surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital, said he doubted that Ms Cambridge was informed appropriately of the risks even if she was a “willing participant”.

He told the inquest: “One of the things which anyone undertaking surgery in this area is aware of is the enthusiasm of the patients, which is almost a frenzy of excitement.

“It’s important that they spend time talking about their wishes with the surgeon, and seeing whether they are going to be met, and then talking about the risks of the surgery.”

After Ms Cambridge’s death, her partner Scott Franks travelled to meet the surgeon who carried out the operation, Dr Ali Uckan.

Mr Franks told the inquest that a “nervous and scared” Dr Uckan had told him:  ”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.”

Asked about his reaction to his partner’s death, Mr Franks said: “You don’t think it’s real, and I still don’t now. You never expect something like this to happen to yourself.”

The court heard his grief was compounded when his solicitors received a letter from Elite Aftercare falsely alleging Miss Cambridge may have died after taking “illicit drugs”.

Solicitors representing the company at the inquest said a toxicology report showed no trace of illegal drugs in her body and the line of inquiry was quickly dropped.

Georgina Neville, who set up Elite Aftercare in late 2015, gave her condolences to Miss Cambridge’s family, saying: “Truly and deeply, I’m sorry.”

She refused to say whether her company was still sending clients to have Brazilian butt lift operations but told the coroner Kevin McLoughlin she will take advice from a plastic surgeon before continuing.

The inquest heard US taskforce which was set up in 2015 to look into the procedure found that the operation had a mortality rate of between one in 2,600 and one in 6,000 surgeries – although this could be an underestimate.

Dr Uckan said in a statement that he had performed the procedure “in the region of a thousand times”, with no complications like those suffered by Miss Cambridge.

However Mr Withey told the hearing: ”Surgeons who know what they are doing and are doing things very safely will still have deaths.”

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) advised its members in October last year to not perform the butt lift until more information could be obtained.

Asked whether Miss Cambridge’s death had played a role in the making of that decision, Mr Withey said: “We had discussed a moratorium, but it just so happened that the death was reported shortly before a meeting, and it focused everybody’s minds, this tragic death.”

The inquest continues.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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