Ethical issues in medical tourism

Medicine, no matter where it is practiced, is full of ethical issues. Each country, each religion, each person has their own moral code to live by, their own conscious to deal with. Each country has its own law, that are often very different than the next’s. In fact, many Americans travel to other countries for medical tourism to escape the rules that they are bound by in the home, as well as for the lower costs. Some of the key areas where ethical issues in the US might be different from those in other countries are set out below.

Sex Change Operations

Also called sex reassignment surgery or transgender surgery, this is often a misunderstood situation for a patient to be in. In fact, in the United States a patient is required to undergo extensive psychological evaluation before being allowed to continue, which is odd because they do not do that for any other surgery.  Some foreign countries do not have this stringent requirement and, in fact, Thailand is widely recognized for doing the best work in this field.

Fertility Procedures

Many couples wanting children have to deal with numerous hurdles in the US when it comes to fertility procedures and ethics. Desperate couples battling infertility or even advanced age can travel overseas to have procedures performed that they could not otherwise have done in the U.S. Many medications are also available in foreign countries that have not yet been approved by the F.D.A. yet are extremely helpful to many women.

Stem Cell Research

Stem cell research is the poster child for ethical issues in modern medicine. In fact, each election year once brings this issue to the forefront of the collective American mind, forcing everyone to take sides. On the contrary, with medical tourism, Alzheimer’s patients and their families can travel to Singapore, a hub for stem cell research, in order to try a new procedure in hopes of getting their loved one back to normal.


Cancer Treatment

50 years ago, a cancer diagnosis was a death sentence. Research and new experimental drugs have given way to hope and the realization that a cure may be in the future. Until that time, however, Americans have to travel to foreign countries in order to gain access to some of these more cutting edge yet not approved medicines and treatments.  Families and patients are willing to take risks in an attempt to fight the disease even if the F.D.A. is not quite ready to approve it.

The above are only some examples of treatments and procedures that are available overseas. In any event, you should undertake your own research and consult your doctor or medical advisor before taking the final plunge.

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