Skip to content

I. Glenn Cohen, Regulating Bodies Across Borders: Medical Tourism for Services Legal in the Home and Destination Country: Legal and Ethical Issues, in Bodies Across Borders: The Global Circulation of Body Parts, Medical Tourists and Professionals (Bronwyn Parry, Beth Greenhough, Tim Brown & Isabel Dyck eds., 2015).

Abstract: ‘Medical tourism’ (to use the most common term, though ‘cross-border health care’ or ‘medical travel’ could also be used), is the travel of patients from their home country to a foreign country for the primary purpose of receiving health care services. There is no doubt that the existing market is significant, even though there are considerable disputes about its exact size. This chapter concerns legal and ethical issues related only to medical tourism for services that are legal in the patient’s home and destination country and will cover issues faced by all three populations of medical tourists engaged in it: patients paying out of pocket, private insurer prompted and government prompted medical tourists. I put to one side medical tourism for services illegal in the home or destination country, which I have dealt with elsewhere. First, I will discuss the question of how tourist patients can determine the quality of foreign facilities, the possibility of state interventions and the ability and the provision of patient safety information and the challenges in securing that information are discussed, including comparisons to domestic initiatives. Second, and especially as to medical tourists coming from the US, I discuss the question of whether medical tourists can recover for medical malpractice committed abroad and possible regulatory salves. Third, I turn to private insurer prompted medical tourism, focusing on its existing (and potential) regulation in the US health care system. Finally, I discuss government-prompted medical tourism in the form of the EU rules regarding reimbursement of cross-border health care. Because of the large numbers of topics covered here, my treatment of each will be brief, but I have written on each in-depth in other work.