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Weight loss surgery: Is it worth the risk? (Marketplace)

Weight loss surgery: Is it worth the risk? (Marketplace)


>>Asha: This is
your Marketplace. Selling weight loss surgery.>>You’re in, you’re out
and you’re shopping.>>Asha: A quick fix.>>They had me hook,
line, and sinker.>>Asha: But at what cost?>>It was a lot of money.>>$16,000.>>$16,000, and it didn’t work. I thought if I can’t
swallow water, there’s something wrong here.>>Dr Yau, what do you have to
say to your Slimband patients who say you failed them?>>Asha: This is
your Marketplace. [ ♪♪♪ ]>>Asha: We’re in the
east end of Toronto. Looking for a doctor who
doesn’t want to talk to us. The former medical director of
one of Canada’s leading private weight loss clinics. We’ve got some serious questions
about questionable surgery. So while we wait outside
this medical building… Across the country,
in Edson, Alberta… Former patient
Carmie Barry, is speaking out.>>I battled with weight up and
down the yo-yo dieting for the last 30-some years.>>Asha: But back in 2012,
she hears about a new weight loss solution.>>Say good-bye to plus sizes. Say good-bye to
diet pills, fat burners and meal replacements.>>Say goodbye to
every diet under the sun.>>The commercials were
coming on TV every day, every night I just– it was
just pulling me in so much.>>Asha: What was it
about the commercials, if you can remember,
describe it for me.>>It’s kind of like a dream. “You’re going to be
slim in no time soon.”>>Together, we lost
over 200 pounds.>>If we can do it,
you can do it!>>Asha: Slimband. A private weight loss
surgery clinic heavily promoting their adjustable
gastric band. Their marketing
makes is seem so easy.>>When we place the
Slimband around the top part of your stomach, it hugs
nerve endings, signaling your hypothalamus that you’re full.>>You’re in, you’re out
and you’re shopping. What could be better?>>Asha: But it’s not cheap. $16,000. The ultimate question? Does it work?>>I did lose weight
in the first few months.>>Asha: How much?>>I lost about 12 pounds. So I was really happy with that. And then I saw it stopped. I could eat a lot one
day and not the next day. So I was going back
to the yo-yo again. So three years later, I was back
to the same weight I was before I had surgery.>>Asha: Did you feel it at all?>>Yes, that was
the worst thing. I haven’t slept on
my left side for a lot, a lot of time.>>Asha: It hurt? Uncomfortable?>>Uncomfortable. It sticks out, and I thought
I need to get this out.>>Asha: So Carmie’s
family doctor refers her here, to Edmonton’s Royal
Alexandra Hospital. Where she discovers
she’s not alone.>>We’re good.>>Asha: Today, Dr Chris
De Gara is about to remove another failed gastric band. Warning, if you’re
a little squeamish, look away now.>>Okay, there, good spot.>>Asha: Like Carmie,
this patient had their band installed by Slimband.>>So now we’re just dividing
the band and you’ll see a little liquid come out, that’s the
saline that is used to fill up the band.>>Asha: De Gara’s clinic
specializes in taking them out. Sometimes, up to three a week.>>Good. Gently pull. Nice. So there’s the band. You might want to
take a picture of that, Dave.>>Asha: Removals are
on the rise. We dig up the numbers. Across Canada, more than 2,300. Costing taxpayers
up to $33 million.>>Patients who must have
these things removed come in with a history of
vomiting intermittently, difficulty swallowing,
and it’s not every day, so today they can eat
a potato, but tomorrow, they can’t. One of the bigger problems from
their perspective is they didn’t lose weight. After all, that’s what
they were there for.>>Asha: But why
isn’t it working?>>I think the stomach doesn’t
like having things put in it, put around it. These are subtle areas that
can be easily disrupted by things like a silastic ring and
that’s what we found happens.>>Asha: You’ve called this
a major health care crisis.>>Obesity is a horrendous
problem that we’re not tackling as a country nearly well enough. And obviously, filling the
gap is the clinic that says, “Well, we’ve got a
little solution here, “it’s not that bad,
day surgery, come along.” But, you know, these clinics
tend to sell a story that may not have the full picture.>>Asha: This is the
story according to Slimband.>>I’m Falana and I’ve lost
over 138 pounds with Slimband.>>Do you want to lose
weight but hate dieting?>>Asha: No diets and a
surgeon promising a quick fix.>>The Slimband helps you feel
full faster so you eat less and still feel satisfied.>>Asha: That’s medical
director Dr Patrick Yau. He says he’s done over
6,000 gastric band surgeries.>>I expected probably
after the surgery, before I left the
city and everything, he would have come out or made
a phone call back or something to me– to check in
on me, but nobody did that.>>Asha: Here’s what
Carmie didn’t know. Months before her surgery,
the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons
gets complaints from some of Dr Yau’s patients. Including one from a mother
about the care her son received. He’s found dead the
morning after his discharge. The college launches an
investigation into Dr Yau’s practice but doesn’t
make any of this public. [ ♪♪♪ ]>>Asha: Two years later,
Maxine Jeffrey is struggling with depression, when she
sees the Slimband ads pop up online.>>They said no more diets.>>Asha: So Maxine begs
her father for the $16,000.>>I was like,
“Look, I really want this. “This will really help me with
my self-esteem and getting “better with my depression.”>>Asha: By this time,
the College has cautioned Dr Yau four times,
requiring him to complete an education program to deal with
the many issues of concern regarding his care of patients. And after it’s
leaked to the media, Slimband announces
Dr Yau is out. But just a few months later,
Maxine’s having her operation. Incredibly, her surgeon
is Dr Yau. Things don’t go so well.>>The first bite of solid
food got stuck in the band. You get this incredible chest
pain and you can feel it moving up and then you
have to go throw up. It actually got to a point where
I started carrying dog poop bags in my purse in case I ate
something and couldn’t find a bathroom.>>Asha: Maxine calls
Dr Yau for help.>>He was like,
“This band isn’t failing you. “You’re failing the band. “You’re not doing it properly.”>>Asha: He blamed you?>>He did.>>Asha: What were you
thinking when he said that?>>I actually remember
hanging up on him, and I cried for a
really long time.>>Asha: Eventually, Dr Yau
performs a second surgery on Maxine giving her a new band. But it doesn’t help. Did you try and
get your money back?>>I, at that point,
started asking for my money back. I said, “This isn’t working. “You guys estimated I
would lose a hundred pounds. “I gained 30.” They said, “No, you’re not–
it didn’t work because you were “non-compliant with the
Slimband regulations.”>>Asha: Then one day,
months later, she’s unable to even swallow water.>>My stomach was so irritated
from getting stuck that it had swollen shut.>>Asha: She ends up in
hospital on IV where they perform emergency
surgery to get the band out. What would she
say to Dr Yau now?>>You took away three years
of my life that I could have had if you had been honest with me. I could have used that money
to go back to school sooner. I could have
started life off at 21, but now I’m restarting
at ground zero at 25.>>Asha: And we uncovered
complaint after complaint about Slimband across the country.>>Okay, all right. So you remember
how to play this?>>Asha: Including Barb Litt
in Burlington, Ontario. A busy mom, desperate for
help with her weight. Two years ago, Slimband’s
marketing lures her in.>>Hi. I’m Christina. I’m just a regular person
with three young kids who has struggled with her weight. Now thanks to Slimband,
I’ve lost 50 pounds.>>They had me hook,
line and sinker.>>Asha: She gives them a call
and speaks to one of the women in those before
and after pictures. Aviva.>>She was, “You’ve got this,
it’s so great!” She could sell swampland in
Florida and tell you that it’s ocean front,
and you would believe it.>>Asha: When you got off
the phone from that first phone call–>>I was excited. I was excited. I’m like, “Oh, yeah,
Tim, this is it! “This is what’s going to help.”>>Asha: Being out of work,
Barb doesn’t have the $16,000. So Slimband helps
her apply for a loan.>>It was instantaneously,
so there again, another, “Okay, well, I’ve been
approved for it so awesome.”>>Asha: Did you
lose any weight?>>I lost 25 pounds,
and I regained that back. You just slow your eating
down and you still can consume exactly the same amount
that you can consume before. So in total I maybe
kept ten pounds off. It all boils back down to
this needs to be fixed first.>>Asha: Meanwhile, Barb’s been
making monthly payments on her loan. But at an interest
rate of 12 and a half percent, she still owes the
financing company over 12 grand.>>It’s a lot of money. I suffer from depression anyway. This was just
making it more so. It put a strain on
my husband and I.>>Asha: But in that time,
there must have been questions about this
surgery and this clinic?>>My husband would say
to me, like, “Are you going to “call them?” And I’m like, “I’ve called them,
they’ve not called me back– “what do you want me to do?”>>Asha: So Barb and her
husband stopped making payments.>>I’m done paying for it. I’ve paid $8,000. I’m done. I think they’ve got
enough out of me.>>Asha: Now Barb’s just
four days away from even more surgery.>>I got this inside my
body and I want it out.>>Asha: Confronting the
doctor behind it all.>>Does Slimband mislead people
by promising no more diets?>>Asha: This is
your Marketplace. Got a story you think
we should investigate? Email us [email protected] Selling weight loss
surgery on your Marketplace. This is Dr Patrick Yau. The medical face behind the
private weight loss surgery clinic Slimband. Promising thousands of
patients an expensive, quick fix.>>It’s not worth the pain. It doesn’t work.>>Asha: The Ontario College of
Physicians and Surgeons has been investigating Dr Yau
for five years.>>I was like shocked
when I heard that. It’s kind of scary.>>Asha: Finally, last April,
the College finds Dr Yau guilty of professional misconduct
including the death of that patient in 2012. The college suspends his medical
license for three months. Now he’s back to
practicing medicine at the Scarborough Hospital. And here at his general practice
clinic in northeast Toronto. We ask repeatedly for an
on-camera interview but he declined so we’re waiting to see
if we can catch him as he shows up for work. Dr Yau, I’m Asha Tomlinson
with Marketplace. We’ve been trying to do an
on-camera interview with you for weeks now. What do you have to say to your
Slimband patients who say you failed them?>>I’m sorry they feel that way.>>Asha: They want an apology. Are you sorry? They want an apology from you. Does Slimband mislead people
by promising no more diets? As a doctor, don’t you have the
duty of care to those patients? What about the mother
of the patient who died, what do you have to say to her? You resigned
from Slimband, Dr Yau, and yet you are
still doing surgeries. Is that how you’re
going to leave it, Dr Yau? In Ontario, private surgery
clinics are inspected by the College. We take a look at its
reports on Slimband. They show it was
repeatedly given a pass. So I head to Women’s College
Hospital in Toronto to meet with the chief of surgery,
Dr David Urbach. Nice to meet you. What do you recommend for
patients who are considering private weight loss clinics?>>I wouldn’t really
recommend that patients get obesity surgery at
a private clinic.>>Asha: Should there be
more oversight from the College of
Physicians and Surgeons?>>They ensure that they
adhere to all the required safety standards. What they don’t do, though,
is determine if they’re actually choosing the best types of
surgical procedures or if they should be doing, you know,
gastric band operation for obesity.>>Asha: Do you see the gastric
band as effective at all?>>Looking at all the scientific
evidence available and all the studies that have been done
going back really over the decades, we’ve determined
in Ontario that gastric bands are not a good procedure to
apply to the population for weight loss. We suspect that nearly all the
bands that are placed at some point will need to be removed.>>Asha: Barb Litt has just
had her band removed here at St. Joseph’s Health Care
in Hamilton, Ontario. And gets a gastric by-pass.>>I’m in a little bit of pain,
more than I expected. Definitely more
than the Slimband. However, they took
care of me a way better.>>Asha: That’s the
procedure Urbach recommends for his patients.>>Overall, that’s felt to be
the gold standard for obesity surgery in Ontario and
still in much of Canada.>>Asha: We catch up with
Barb and her sister Lisa a month later.>>Fibre is 3.>>So it’s 2.>>2 grams of carbs.>>Asha: So, what’s it like
going through the public system instead?>>The after care
is unprecedented. I mean, here are all my
appointments that I have for the next five months. And I can call at any time to
go in and see anyone that I need to,
social worker, dietician.>>There’s a reason why
people have that addiction. So, you need the support
to follow through on that.>>And have you
noticed any weight loss?>>Yes, I have.>>She’s getting her little
girly figure at the back.>>Start from the beginning.>>Asha: But Barb’s still not
done dealing with Slimband.>>Payments must be
made in a timely manner.>>Asha: Since she stopped
making the monthly payments on her $16,000 loan,
she’s been getting emails from the financing company
threatening her and her husband’s credit rating. So Barb and her sister
try giving Slimband a call.>>Thanks for calling
Slimband support. This line only receives
voice messages. You are welcome to leave a voice
message and it will be returned within three business days. If this is an emergency,
please go to your local hospital. Thanks, and have a nice day.>>Typical. I mean, just going
through everything, I expected nothing less. I mean, they’re just–
they’re not there.>>Asha: The financing company
Slimband sent Barb up with is called Credit Medical. It loans money for cosmetic
and bariatric surgeries at private clinics across the
country. The director of Credit Medical
is former real estate developer, Michael Scot-Smith. Turns out Scot-Smith is also
the director of something else. Slimband. We share that with Barb.>>You know, I’m on TV so
I’m not going to say anything, but if you could
read my mind, you know, it’s just is so aggravating. I’m not going to
be paying for this.>>You’re not going
to be paying for this?>>No ma’am.>>Asha: The search
for Scot-Smith is on. This is your Marketplace. Get more Marketplace by
signing up for our weekly newsletter at
CBC.ca/marketplace.>>Asha: The real deal
on your Marketplace.>>Yeah.>>Asha: Barb Litt’s still on
the hook for thousands of dollars for a surgery that
didn’t work the way they promised.>>It is a gimmick.>>Asha: The loan company is
threatening her credit rating, but she’s not giving up because
she now knows its director is also the director of Slimband.>>Credit Medical.>>Good morning, my name is
Barb Litt and I have an account with you all through Slimband. I’m not going to
be paying for this.>>You’re not going
to be paying for this?>>No ma’am.>>You do understand that
the contract that this is not independent of the consequences.>>Actually, I have found out
that you guys are actually owned by the same people.>>Why would that be
relevant to your loan?>>Well, because, you know,
because of what’s happened with Slimband and it not working,
I am not going to be paying for something, therefore,
I don’t owe you guys nothing.>>So basically, we are
a billing department, and we bill for– so we
are following your contract.>>Okay. So what I’m going to say to
you right now is you’re going to have to go after the owner of
the company which is the owner of Slimband and
the owner of this Medical Credit Corporation–>>They did not do the surgery.>>You’re right,
I know they didn’t.>>And they did
not sign for the loan.>>He probably could have
done the surgery because it’s kind of like the same
Mickey Mouse type job so I thank you. I just want to let you know. Don’t bother calling,
don’t bother sending any emails. Have a fantastic day. And we’ll talk to you later. Bye-bye.>>Okay, we would…>>Oh, my goodness.>>Asha: We investigate and
find out the director of Credit Medical and Slimband,
Michael Scot-Smith, has a history. In 1993, he’s sentenced
to two years in jail for real estate fraud. And in 2000, he’s convicted
of obtaining bank loans under false pretenses. Scot-Smith doesn’t respond
to our multiple requests for an interview so I head to
the address on Credit Medical’s website.>>Hi.>>How are you?>>Good, how are you?>>I’m good, thanks. How can I help you?>>I’m with CBC Marketplace. Is this Credit Medical?>>I’m not with Credit Medical.>>Oh, okay. So this isn’t the office
for Credit Medical where Michael Scot-Smith
is the director?>>They just do mail here,
they don’t actually have like an office here.>>So is it possible
to leave a message?>>I can put it in the mail. [ ♪♪♪ ]>>Asha: Signed, about to
be delivered. Okay. So we’re just going to
leave this for him.>>Okay. No problem.>>Asha: Thanks so much.>>Bye, guys.>>Asha: There’s one more
address where we might find Michael Scot-Smith.>>My first pre-op
appointment was here and I met with Dr Yau here.>>Asha: Maxine Jeffrey is
still trying to get her father’s $16,000 back. So we’re taking her
back to Slimband. A change is
proposed for this site. So they’re–>>I think they’re
going to tear it down.>>Asha: And build a condo. I don’t think anyone’s here.>>No.>>Asha: What are you thinking,
being back here two years later?>>I’m glad they’re gone. I’m glad that no one else
is going to get– go through having a band put in
them through this clinic.>>Asha: How are you going
to get your dad’s money back?>>I don’t know. I’m probably not.>>Asha: A couple
weeks later, Maxine finally has her gastric by-pass. A silver lining
after her trying ordeal.>>I’m just sad that we all had
to go through it and some people probably won’t have the
courage to go on national TV and say something. I want to help those people.>>And again,
the emotional strain, the financial strain,
it was very hard on her, you know. But you know, it’s been a
very bad struggle and for her all her life,
and, you know, so–>>I love you, thank you.>>I love you too. [ ♪♪♪ ]>>It’s time for the big purge.>>Oh, it’s clothes
that are too small for me.>>Oh, my gosh!>>Where do all your
old clothes really end up?>>Ultimately, it is going
to end up in the landfill.>>We follow the
trail around the world.>>They end up dumping
them in Africa or in Kenya.>>The high
cost of fast fashion. [ ♪♪♪ ]

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