Young mother died after flying to Turkey for gastric bypass surgery, inquest hears

Khelisyah Ashamu

Khelisyah Ashamu, 26, died in Turkey in 2019 after flying there for a gastric bypass operation, a court heard - Credit: The Ashamu family

A young mother from Dagenham died in Turkey after flying there for gastric bypass surgery – but an inquest has failed to determine exactly what led to her death.

Khelisyah Ashamu, 26, flew to Turkey with three other people in 2019 after booking the operation through a company called Get Slim.

“She was the only one that didn’t come back,” her father Oyebanji wrote in a statement to the coroner.

“She leaves behind a young son,” coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe said at an inquest on Friday, January 21. “Really, a very tragic case.”

Cheaper Operations

The inquest, held in Barking, heard that Khelisyah, of Clementhorpe Road, had originally booked herself in for a gastric sleeve surgery, in which 80 per cent of her stomach would be removed.

Tracey Ozdemir from Get Slim told Dr Radcliffe that many of the agency’s UK customers were people who faced a choice between years-long NHS waiting lists for gastric surgeries or £12,000 bills for going private.

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In Turkey, the private surgery costs just £3,000.

Ms Ozdemir said Khelisyah had contacted Get Slim in December 2018 and had a consultation with the surgeon, booking herself onto a flight to Turkey on Thursday, January 31, 2019.

“It was sold as a simple procedure, which could be done over a weekend,” Khelisyah’s mother Toyin wrote in a statement.

“She expected to be back to her son by the Tuesday night.”

But Ms Ozdemir said that in mid-January, Khelisyah got back in touch saying she had done more research and wished to switch from a gastric sleeve to a gastric bypass.

She was offered another consultation with the surgeon, but said she would rather discuss it “face to face” when she arrived, Ms Ozdemir testified.

Different Operation

Surgeon Ismail Yaman told the court that when he met Khelisyah at the Ekol Hospital in Izmir on February 1, he explained that the bypass surgery was riskier, more complex and had greater long-term impacts on the patient’s body.

He said he recommended Khelisyah stick with the gastric sleeve but she “insisted” on the bypass.

Lawyer Dominique Smith, representing Khelisyah’s family, asked Mr Yaman why he had not simply refused to perform the operation. 

“The patient has a right to choose,” he said. “She has a right to choose the bypass.”

Khelisyah Ashamu

The court heard Khelisyah was a graduate of De Montford University and was the mother to an 11-month-old son at the time of her death - Credit: The Ashamu family

Ms Smith also questioned how stringently patients were screened, with Ms Ozdemir accepting they relied on the patients to tell the truth about their health.

“If someone doesn’t fully disclose their medical history, we wouldn’t know about that,” she testified. “We just go by what’s on the form. It relies on the patient telling them the truth.”

She said Get Slim was just a booking agency and doctors assessed all patients before surgery.

There was no suggestion that Khelisyah had withheld any details or that negligence contributed to her death.

Ms Ozdemir said Get Slim had booked roughly 4,000 operations with Turkish hospitals and seen two deaths, including Khelisyah’s.

Mr Yaman said Khelisyah was the only patient he had ever lost - and he hoped it would remain that way.

“I feel very sad about this,” he said.

Complications

The court heard after undergoing her bypass surgery on February 1, 2019, Khelisyah was experiencing the expected pains and nausea but her vital signs were normal.

She underwent a CT scan given to all gastric surgery patients, which showed some dilation of her bowel, so on February 3, she underwent a second procedure where some small adjustments were made.

Around half an hour, she went into cardiac arrest.

“The direct cause of the cardiac arrest is unclear,” said Dr Radcliffe.

Khelisyah Ashamu

The inquest heard that the cause of Khelisyah Ashamu's cardiac arrest was 'unclear' - Credit: The Ashamu family

Mr Yaman said this second procedure had been filmed.

“I’ve watched it again and again,” he testified via an interpreter. “There’s nothing there I’ve done wrong or that shows that something went wrong.”

The Turkish authorities have ruled that the surgery was properly conducted.

Khelisyah was put into an induced coma but she died on February 9, 2019.

Post-mortem examinations found more than a kilogram of blood in her stomach, which was unexplained, and that parts of her bowel had died – but neither was believed to have caused her cardiac arrest.

“My conclusion is that her death is as a result of complications of a surgical procedure,” said Dr Radcliffe. “I would like to offer my very deepest condolences to her family.”