If you live in southern California, you can’t miss the billboards advertising laparoscopic gastric banding at “1-800-GET-THIN” outpatient surgery centers. They feature happy people who’ve lost 100 pounds or more, and urge you to “let your new life begin” by having a “lap band” inserted. Fees at these centers are much lower than they are at university medical centers or other major hospitals.
Recently, however, those surgery centers and their owners have been in a lot of trouble. Patient deaths have been reported in detail by the Los Angeles Times. Whistleblower lawsuits by former employees have accused the surgery centers of performing gastric banding with unqualified staff and unsanitary, malfunctioning equipment. Members of Congress are calling for hearings to question the aggressive advertising that failed to disclose “lap band” risks.
Why would anyone believe that cheap surgery is a good choice? Think about it for a moment. If you buy a knock-off Rolex watch for a few bucks from a street vendor, are you really surprised if tarnish rubs off on your wrist?