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      Promoting social responsibility amongst health care users: medical tourists’ perspectives on an information sheet regarding ethical concerns in medical tourism


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          Medical tourists, persons that travel across international borders with the intention to access non-emergency medical care, may not be adequately informed of safety and ethical concerns related to the practice of medical tourism. Researchers indicate that the sources of information frequently used by medical tourists during their decision-making process may be biased and/or lack comprehensive information regarding individual safety and treatment outcomes, as well as potential impacts of the medical tourism industry on third parties. This paper explores the feedback from former Canadian medical tourists regarding the use of an information sheet to address this knowledge gap and raise awareness of the safety and ethical concerns related to medical tourism.


          According to feedback provided in interviews with former Canadian medical tourists, the majority of participants responded positively to the information sheet and indicated that this document prompted them to engage in further consideration of these issues. Participants indicated some frustration after reading the information sheet regarding a lack of know-how in terms of learning more about the concerns discussed in the document and changing their decision-making. This frustration was due to participants’ desperation for medical care, a topic which participants frequently discussed regarding ethical concerns related to health care provision.


          The overall perceptions of former medical tourists indicate that an information sheet may promote further consideration of ethical concerns of medical tourism. However, given that these interviews were performed with former medical tourists, it remains unknown whether such a document might impact upon the decision-making of prospective medical tourists. Furthermore, participants indicated a need for an additional tool such as a website for continued discussion about these concerns. As such, along with dissemination of the information sheet, future research implications should include the development of a website for ongoing discussion that could contribute to a raised awareness of these concerns and potentially increase social responsibility in the medical tourism industry.

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          Most cited references20

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          ‘First World Health Care at Third World Prices’: Globalization, Bioethics and Medical Tourism

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            What is known about the effects of medical tourism in destination and departure countries? A scoping review

            Background Medical tourism involves patients intentionally leaving their home country to access non-emergency health care services abroad. Growth in the popularity of this practice has resulted in a significant amount of attention being given to it from researchers, policy-makers, and the media. Yet, there has been little effort to systematically synthesize what is known about the effects of this phenomenon. This article presents the findings of a scoping review examining what is known about the effects of medical tourism in destination and departure countries. Methods Drawing on academic articles, grey literature, and media sources extracted from18 databases, we follow a widely used scoping review protocol to synthesize what is known about the effects of medical tourism in destination and departure countries. The review design has three main stages: (1) identifying the question and relevant literature; (2) selecting the literature; and (3) charting, collating, and summarizing the data. Results The large majority of the 203 sources accepted into the review offer a perspective of medical tourism from the Global North, focusing on the flow of patients from high income nations to lower and middle income countries. This greatly shapes any discussion of the effects of medical tourism on destination and departure countries. Five interrelated themes that characterize existing discussion of the effects of this practice were extracted from the reviewed sources. These themes frame medical tourism as a: (1) user of public resources; (2) solution to health system problems; (3) revenue generating industry; (4) standard of care; and (5) source of inequity. It is observed that what is currently known about the effects of medical tourism is minimal, unreliable, geographically restricted and mostly based on speculation. Conclusions Given its positive and negative effects on the health care systems of departure and destination countries, medical tourism is a highly significant and contested phenomenon. This is especially true given its potential to serve as a powerful force for the inequitable delivery of health care services globally. It is recommended that empirical evidence and other data associated with medical tourism be subjected to clear and coherent definitions, including reports focused on the flows of medical tourists and surgery success rates. Additional primary research on the effects of medical tourism is needed if the industry is to develop in a manner that is beneficial to citizens of both departure and destination countries.
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              Medical tourism and policy implications for health systems: a conceptual framework from a comparative study of Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia

              Medical tourism is a growing phenomenon with policy implications for health systems, particularly of destination countries. Private actors and governments in Southeast Asia are promoting the medical tourist industry, but the potential impact on health systems, particularly in terms of equity in access and availability for local consumers, is unclear. This article presents a conceptual framework that outlines the policy implications of medical tourism's growth for health systems, drawing on the cases of Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, three regional hubs for medical tourism, via an extensive review of academic and grey literature. Variables for further analysis of the potential impact of medical tourism on health systems are also identified. The framework can provide a basis for empirical, in country studies weighing the benefits and disadvantages of medical tourism for health systems. The policy implications described are of particular relevance for policymakers and industry practitioners in other Southeast Asian countries with similar health systems where governments have expressed interest in facilitating the growth of the medical tourist industry. This article calls for a universal definition of medical tourism and medical tourists to be enunciated, as well as concerted data collection efforts, to be undertaken prior to any meaningful empirical analysis of medical tourism's impact on health systems.

                Author and article information

                Philos Ethics Humanit Med
                Philos Ethics Humanit Med
                Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine : PEHM
                BioMed Central
                6 December 2013
                : 8
                : 19
                [1 ]Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Blusson Hall, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
                [2 ]Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University, Robert C. Brown Building, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
                Copyright © 2013 Adams et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 4 July 2013
                : 26 November 2013

                Philosophy of science
                Philosophy of science


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