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Is Medical Tourism Really Unethical? An Alternate Perspective for Developing Countries

Divya Chaudhry

Journal of Development Policy and Practice, 2022, vol. 7, issue 2, 145-157

Abstract: This article makes a case for leveraging medical tourism (MT) from the perspective of improving healthcare access in developing countries. The expansion of MT at an unprecedented rate has given rise to a number of ethical concerns in both home and destination countries. Ethical debates in this field have transcended the realm of global public health and have emerged across various disciplines including development, social justice, legal, trade and policy studies. Much of the academic literature in these domains has categorically held MT responsible for commodification of healthcare, creating a duality in healthcare systems of developing countries and making healthcare inaccessible and unaffordable for the disadvantaged sections of the population. While all these claims normatively seem justified, this article asserts that despite the several ethical concerns that have been raised, MT may not necessarily exacerbate healthcare equity issues in developing countries. In fact, MT may benefit destination countries by creating a highly specialised private sector which may provide services not only to foreign patients but also to wealthier domestic patients. Voluntary opting-out of domestic patients from public healthcare will result in decongestion of public healthcare facilities, which in turn could be accessed to a greater extent by the underprivileged population at affordable cost. In addition to contributing to the limited academic literature on this particular aspect of MT, this article presents an alternate view to promote MT in developing countries from the perspective of addressing challenges related to healthcare access.

Keywords: Medical tourism; public health; developing countries; ethics (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1177/24551333211062355

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