UK woman, 20, dies from septic shock after weight-loss surgery

Weight loss surgery is typically a last resort for those with severe obesity, requiring a BMI of 40 or above and evidence that other weight loss methods have been unsuccessful. Picture: Pixabay

Weight loss surgery is typically a last resort for those with severe obesity, requiring a BMI of 40 or above and evidence that other weight loss methods have been unsuccessful. Picture: Pixabay

Published Jan 30, 2024


Twenty-year-old British woman, Morgan Ribeiro, died after having weight loss surgery in Turkey.

In search of a more affordable option for gastric sleeve surgery, which can cost up to £11 000 (R260 000) in the UK, Morgan and her partner, Jamie Brewster, chose a clinic in Turkey that offered the procedure for £2 500.

Shortly after the operation on January 5, Ribeiro and her partner flew back home.

During the flight, as reported by “The Mirror”, she experienced septic shock, a reaction to a severe infection. Doctors later found that her small intestine had been accidentally cut during surgery, leading to a life-threatening infection.

Before the surgery, Morgan shared a poignant message on TikTok, bid farewell to her followers and said she looked forward to seeing them “on the other side”.

@moganmaria im so ready #fyp #morganmariaaa #wlsjourney #gastricsleeve @Morgan-Maria ♬ original sound - morgan❤️

Despite Ribeiro’s research into her surgery options, the tragic outcome unfolded shortly after the procedure.

According to “The Independent”, she was initially cleared to leave the clinic by medical staff despite discomfort post-surgery. But on their return flight to Gatwick Airport, the situation worsened, the plane made an emergency landing in Serbia and she was taken to hospital.

In Serbia, her partner learnt of the complications of the procedure. Despite attempts to save her, including the removal of a portion of her intestine, Ribeiro suffered a heart attack on January 9 and fell into a coma. She died just four days later.

Ribeiro’s mother, Erin Gibson, 44, expressed her heartbreak to “The Independent”, stating she never wanted another family to endure a similar loss.

Brewster has set up a GoFundMe page to give Ribeiro a “perfect send-off,” where he honours her as the most beautiful and significant part of his life.

He also shared that Ribeiro had chosen not to wait to have the procedure done through the National Health Service (NHS) because of potential delays.

Weight loss surgery is typically a last resort for those with severe obesity, requiring a BMI of 40 or above and evidence that other weight loss methods have been unsuccessful.

The operation can involve reducing the size of the stomach or altering the digestive tract to prompt a feeling of fullness more quickly.

Ribeiro had her consultation with a company facilitating weight loss surgeries abroad in September 2023. The risks of the surgery were not fully communicated to her, Brewster says.

After the surgery, she was in pain but was cleared to leave, leading to the devastating consequences that followed.

What are the typical qualifications for weight loss surgery through the NHS?

Weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, on the NHS in the UK is typically available under certain conditions due to its nature as a major medical procedure.

The qualifications for weight loss surgery through the NHS generally include:

Individuals are often required to meet the BMI criteria:

- A BMI of 40 or more, or

- A BMI between 35 to 40, accompanied by a serious health condition that could improve with weight loss, such as Type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.

Previous weight management efforts

The individual must have tried other weight loss methods, like dieting and exercise, and not been able to lose weight or keep it off.

Understanding the risks and changes

Patients should be fully informed about the risks associated with surgery and the significant lifestyle changes that will be needed after the operation.

Completion of a weight loss programme

Some NHS services may require patients to show they can adhere to a long-term plan of lifestyle changes by completing a weight management programme before surgery is considered.

Potential complications or risks associated with weight loss surgery

Weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, carries potential complications and risks, as it is a major surgical procedure.

Some of the potential complications include:

Infection: As with any surgery, there's a risk of developing an infection at the surgical site.

Blood clots: Blood clots can form in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) and potentially travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism).

Bleeding: Excessive bleeding during or after the operation is a risk.

Digestive issues: Some individuals may experience digestive problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation, as the body adjusts to the changes in the digestive tract.

Leaks: In some cases, surgical connections in the digestive tract may leak, leading to serious complications.

Gallstones: Rapid weight loss after surgery can increase the risk of gallstones.

Malnutrition: Changing the digestive tract can make it harder for the body to absorb certain nutrients, potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies.

Wound healing problems: If there are issues with wound healing, it can result in infections or other complications.

Dumping syndrome: This occurs when food moves too quickly through the digestive system, leading to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness or sweating.

Ulcers: Some patients may develop ulcers in the stomach or at the connection between the stomach and intestine.

The most common types of weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, include:

Gastric Bypass Surgery

The procedure involves creating a small pouch from the stomach and connecting it directly to the small intestine, bypassing a portion of the stomach and the first part of the small intestine.

It restricts the amount of food your stomach can hold and reduces the absorption of nutrients. This surgery is restrictive and malabsorptive.

Sleeve Gastrectomy (Gastric Sleeve Surgery)

During this procedure, a large portion of the stomach is surgically removed, leaving a small banana-shaped or sleeve-shaped stomach.

This surgery works by reducing the size of the stomach, which restricts the amount of food you can eat. It’s purely a restrictive procedure.

Gastric Banding

In this surgery, an inflatable band is placed around the upper part of the stomach, creating a small stomach pouch above the band.

The band is then filled with saline to create a smaller stomach, thereby limiting the amount of food the stomach can hold. This is a restrictive procedure, without any cutting or stapling of the stomach.

Duodenal Switch:

This procedure combines a restrictive and malabsorptive approach. It involves removing a large portion of the stomach and re-routing the small intestine to enable food to bypass a significant part of the small intestine, limiting the absorption of calories and nutrients.

Each type of surgery has its own benefits, risks, and considerations. The most suitable option for an individual depends on various factors, including their weight, medical history, and personal preferences.