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The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies by J. Michael Ryan, Daniel Thomas Cook

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Medical Tourism

I. GLENN COHEN and ETHAN PRALL

Harvard Law School, USA

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs168

Medical tourism is the travel of patients from a “home country” to a “destination country” in order to seek medical treatment, often for financial reasons. It has become a booming business over the last two decades, with hundreds of thousands of patients moving internationally and millions of dollars in annual revenue accruing to hospitals in a number of developing nations (Cohen 2013a). Medical tourism takes many specific forms, and it can be analyzed according to different categories: for instance, type of service versus type of legal or ethical issue involved. The type of service generally involves either services illegal in both the home and destination countries, services illegal only in the home country (“circumvention tourism”), or services legal in both countries but cheaper or easier to access in the destination country (Cohen 2010a). Legal and ethical issues arise with respect to each of these different types of service.

When services are legal in both the home and destination countries, medical tourism may be motivated by patients' desire to save costs (especially for uninsured patients), to avoid extensive waiting lists, to take advantage of coverage options by a private medical insurer in the home country, or to access a service unavailable in the home country but covered by government-sponsored health insurance (as in the EU). Among the ethical and legal issues ...

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