Medical Tourism: Social and Ethical Concerns

By Natalie Achamallah, Jessica Nishiguchi, Shahriar Reza Rajaee, Maya Srinivasan and Julia Borovay.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Medical tourism, the practice of traveling across international borders for health care, is a rapidly rising phenomenon with serious ethical and economic ramifications for developing nations. Currently, medical tourism is an important industry in developing countries such as India, Malaysia, and Thailand, which provide first-rate medical care, including surgery, cosmetic procedures, and reproductive services, at third-world prices. While medical tourism is an attractive alternative for cost-concerned patients willing to travel, it is clear that the long-term negative impact in developing countries will be substantial. The potential negative effects of medical tourism are twofold: (1) deteriorating access to health care in developing countries, and (2) ethical concerns. Accommodating the rising number of foreign patients limits access to health care for native populations, as medical professionals may be diverted to serving wealthier foreign patients. Another concern is the potential consequences of the illegal marketing of organs and tissues. As interest in medical tourism increases, it is imperative that patients, physicians, and healthcare workers alike weigh the socioeconomic and ethical costs of globalization in order to anticipate the potential impact of medical tourism.

Keywords: Medical Tourism, Medical Ethics, Developing Nations, Organ Trafficking

Global Studies Journal, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.103-110. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.182MB).

Natalie Achamallah

Student, Global Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA

Natalie Achamallah recently completed a Master of Science in Global Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. She earned a BS in Neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2008. Natalie’s current research focus is Alzheimer’s Disease. At the Clinical Neurosciences Research Lab at the West Los Angeles VA Hospital she is involved in several studies, including clinical trials, PET imaging, and functional MRI. Natalie would like to pursue a career in medicine, and as a physician plans to work with and advocate for medically underserved populations in the United States and globally.

Jessica Nishiguchi

Student, Global Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA

Jessica Nishiguchi received her B.A. in Biology from Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Currently, she is a graduate student in Global Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA and hopes to one day become a physician-scientist. As a Global Medicine student, Jessica’s interests lie in the burden of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Malaria in developing countries. Additionally, she is currently working in the laboratory of Dr. Le Ma at USC’s Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, where her research focuses on the pathways that guide the branching of neurons during development.

Shahriar Reza Rajaee

Student, Global Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA

Shahriar Reza Rajaee is graduate student at Tufts University School of Medicine and will be obtaining his MD degree in 2013. He received his Master of Science in Global Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. He received his Bachelor of Science from the University of California Los Angeles, majoring in Physiological Science. In the past, Reza’s research focus has been on Alzheimer’s disease and Down syndrome. Working with Dr. Linda Nelson at UCLA, Reza was involved in groundbreaking research and he co-authored a publication submitted for the journal Neurology. As a future physician, Reza plans to be actively involved in health care on a global scale.

Maya Srinivasan

Student, Global Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA

Maya Srinivasan is a student in the Masters of Science of Global Medicine Program at the Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California. She completed her undergraduate studies in Northwestern University with a major in Mathematics and a minor Global Health Studies. She studied in Sciences Po in Paris, France, studying international health policy and healthcare equity, in which she completed her research thesis on “The Social, Cultural, and Economic Challenges to Eradicating Tuberculosis in Developing Countries”. Maya previously was a student volunteer at the Community Health Clinic in Chicago, Illinois, and is currently continuing her interest in community health by volunteering in the Los Angeles County Hospital. Maya’s interest in Global Medicine includes healthcare equity, access to essential medicines, and childhood obesity. She has engaged in research involving childhood obesity in Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Maya’s future career goals are to become a physician dedicated to improving healthcare access globally.

Dr. Julia Borovay

Lecturer, USC Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA

Julia G. Borovay, Dr.P.H., is a lecturer in the USC Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research [HP]. She teaches three HP courses: Cultural Competency; Culture, Lifestyle, and Health; and Eastern Medicine and Modern Health. Her research interests are in the areas of cultural competence in health care; health belief models, and patient compliance with recommended medical treatment plans. She was formerly project director for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services pediatric HIV/AIDS surveillance project and for the perinatal hepatitis B prevention program. She recently participated for five years as research ethnographer for a CDC-sponsored intervention study of parental efficacy in a recruited population of low-income mothers through the UCLA Department of Pediatrics and Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International. Dr. Borovay received her M.A. in anthropology at CSU, Chico, and a graduate degree in linguistics from the University of California, Davis. She earned her doctorate in public health from the University of California, Los Angeles. Julia G. Borovay, Dr.P.H. Part-time lecturer Academic Background: M.A. Anthropology; CSUC, 1982 T.E.S.O.L. (Linguistics) U.C. Davis, 1984 Dr.P.H., UCLA, 1993. August 2008

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