Reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Should nip-tuck reality show Beauty and the Beach be axed?

Ewa Zagrobelna of Otaki, who's sister Moanaroa Zagrobelna died after she went to Malaysia for a weight-reducing operation. Photo / Martin Hunter
Ewa Zagrobelna of Otaki, who's sister Moanaroa Zagrobelna died after she went to Malaysia for a weight-reducing operation. Photo / Martin Hunter

Family of a New Zealand woman who died on a surgical tourism trip to Malaysia are calling for TVNZ to pull a reality TV show on the industry.

Beauty and the Beach will premiere on TVNZ on June 30. The show chronicles the travels of 17 New Zealand and Australian women on trips to get plastic surgery with Gorgeous Getaways, the same company that Moanaroa Krysia Zagrobelna went to Malaysia with in 2007 for weight-loss surgery.

The 42-year-old, known as Krysia, died on June 18, 2007, just five days after her surgery.

A coroner found the most likely cause of her death was cardiac arrest, after dehydration and exhaustion following recent surgery.

Krysia's sister, Ewa Zagrobelna, this week complained to TVNZ, telling the Herald on Sunday she feared the show would glamourise the surgical tourism industry.

Beauty and the Beach would air two weeks after the anniversary of her sister's death, and she was concerned about the impact it would have on the sisters' elderly father.

"My dad's 80 years old," Ewa said. "He's not been the same since my sister died. He had a heart attack last year, I don't want him to see this show. He keeps saying 'you shouldn't have to bury your children'.

"I get upset when I see that stuff on TV because I think of my sister, how she got sucked in."

Krysia is not the only patient who has died after one of Gorgeous Getaways' trips. In 2014, Australian man Leigh Aiple died after extensive plastic surgery in Malaysia. An initial coroner's ruling found the 34-year-old died after a blood clot from his leg travelled to his lung. A full coronial inquest is still being carried out.

A TVNZ spokeswoman confirmed the network had received a complaint from Ewa. "We understand the topic of cosmetic tourism brings up painful memories for her family and we can understand her perspective," she said.

The spokeswoman said the show would carry "viewer guidance information" before airing, warning that surgery carried risk and recommending getting advice from a trusted healthcare professional before choosing to go under the knife.

New Zealand woman Loraine Reinsfield has owned Gorgeous Getaways since 2012.

In a written statement to the Herald on Sunday, Reinsfield expressed her condolences to Ewa Zagrobelna.

"Our clients are under professional medical care and are given all the information on their surgeries, post-op care and recovery before they commence."

If medical misconduct was ever found, the company would review the facilities and surgeons they worked with. Her company's clients were also made aware of potential complications, Reinsfield said.

TVNZ's new show Beauty and the Beach follows people travelling overseas for cheap cosmetic surgery. Photo / Getty Images
TVNZ's new show Beauty and the Beach follows people travelling overseas for cheap cosmetic surgery. Photo / Getty Images

Beauty and the Beach was created and produced by New Zealand company 2B Media. Martin Cleave, the show's executive producer and managing director of 2B Media, said the company had vetted Gorgeous Getaways before filming started.

"We went through 13 companies before we decided to go with [Gorgeous Getaways] and you'll find that with most of them something [adverse] has happened at some point," he said.

"But our interest was to ensure that no one had been implicated legally or directly associated with the death of anyone due to misconduct."

He said he sympathised with families who had lost loved ones, but the show did not glamorise trips overseas to get plastic surgery.

Dr Sally Langley, president of the New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons, said the association cautioned patients against going overseas for cheaper surgery.

She said in New Zealand doctors and anaesthetists were well trained and registered, and hospitals were audited, checked and accredited.

Patients were assessed by surgeons at least twice, with a two-week stand down period between consultation and surgery.

"People don't know in countries like Thailand if the surgeon is even a doctor, whether they're registered or trained."

She said it was the same with the anaesthetist and the hospital.

"They might look flash and be five-star, but you can't go on that," she said.

Drugs, implants, sutures and devices could be substandard, or not be what the patient is told they are, post-operative care could be limited and patients shouldn't fly long distance before or after surgery Langley said. She said there were instances where New Zealand surgeons had to fix botched overseas jobs.

"We've all seen some."

- Herald on Sunday

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