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Ethical and legal apprehensions related to medical tourism

Medical facilities are very expensive in most of the developed countries. Moreover, there is a long waiting list for getting these treatments. This has given rise to a new industry- medical tourism. Patients often travel to another country to treat their ailments. Many developing countries have very good medical facilities, and are cheaper too. Americans travel to neighbouring Mexico for a large number of medical procedures. India and Thailand offer excellent cardiac health care. With falling cost of flight tickets, travelling to other countries to avail medical procedure has become very cost effective.


With the rise of medical tourism, many people have raised concern over a large number of legal and ethical issues. Many medical procedures may be banned in one country but may be legal in some other. Many Americans travel to Mexico for weight loss surgery, if they do not qualify for this procedure at home.


Surrogacy is illegal in many countries. People travel to other country to hire surrogate mother. What will be the legal implication of such procedures? Moral or ethical issues also arise in case of organ transplant. Many people in poor countries sell their kidneys to earn some money. Is it ethical to buy kidney from these so-called donors to save someone’s life?


Sometimes serious medical complications arise after such surgeries. Patient may contract severe infections while travelling. It becomes very cumbersome to get legal redress if something goes wrong while undergoing medical procedures abroad. Therefore, it is very important to do complete research before venturing to some other country for treatment.


There is another ethical issue. Many people allege that the poor people of rich countries are getting treatment at these low cost destinations at the expense of poor residents of the host country. Many people feel that good doctors treat these medical tourists creating shortage of good medical practitioners at local facilities.


Another ethical question arises in treatment of children suffering form life threatening diseases being treated at some foreign location. Many times parents take their children for some untested, risky treatments abroad hoping to cure them of their disease. Is it ethical to take these young ones for such illegal procedures? Is it not a kind of child abuse?


Medical insurance also causes many problems. If low cost medical insurance becomes available, it will be of great help. This insurance should also be made available to medical tourists. It is very difficult to question everything on the basis of morality. It may be an issue of morality for someone but may be a question of survival for other.

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