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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 February, 2004, 22:38 GMT
Spain weighs risks of obesity
Spanish surgeons
Three people have died from the stomach surgery in the last month
Spain's health ministry is to launch an investigation into several recent deaths following stomach reduction operations in the country's hospitals. BBC Monitoring looks at some of the recent media coverage:

Raul Gallardo was morbidly obese.

The 31-year-old worked as a waiter at the Nerja caves, a popular tourist site in southern Spain.

But at almost 200 kilograms, his weight was a serious threat to his health, so in January he had stomach reduction surgery at a hospital in Granada.

He died of an infection last Tuesday - the third such patient to die in a month.

Dr Ferron Orihuela of the Virgen de las Nieves hospital told Spanish television Mr Gallardo had been warned of the dangers.

"The patient had a body mass index of more than 55, which is a situation of super-obesity that obviously increases the risk."

But people alarmed by the deaths say the information provided is not adequate, and a number of victims' relatives are taking legal action against the hospitals concerned.

In no way is it a cosmetic operation
Candido Martinez

Manuel Fernandez's wife died after similar surgery in Barcelona.

Mr Fernandez told the Madrid newspaper El Pais the official death toll of between one percent and six percent of patients "does not reflect the reality".

"Obesity is really an illness, and although this is sold as a cosmetic operation it is as major as heart surgery," he added.

Last resort

Obesity is on the rise in Spain and so too is the number of operations, according to the paper.

Last year there were over 3,000.

Surgery is a risky last resort, leading surgeon Candido Martinez told the paper.

"In no way is it a cosmetic operation," Dr Martinez said, explaining that only patients with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or more are treated.

"Patients... are suffering cardio-vascular and respiratory problems, sleep apnea, hypertension or diabetes, so complications during or after the surgery cannot be ruled out," he added.

Dr Martinez told the daily that treatment poses many problems, such as accessing the organs concerned, because they are covered in fat, and fitting patients inside scanning machines.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




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