Beneficence or Commerce?
February 15, 2013
Contemporary Perspectives, Spring 2013
Professor Philip J. Gibbon
Psychology/ Occupational Therapy Major
Medical Tourism is a health care trend that has recently greatly increased and is expected to continue increasing in the future. Medical Tourism is defined by tourist travel for the purpose of receiving medical treatment or improving health fitness (Medical Tourism, 1). The skyrocketing cost of health care is a major contributor that is causing people to go abroad in order to seek affordable healthcare. Because of the United States’ overly expensive Medicare and Medicaid Insurance packages and the difficulty to get coverage from insurance companies, patients that are in need of surgery and other types of medical care are turning to foreign, sometimes less developed, countries to get the treatment they need. Since in most other countries, patients pay out of pocket for medical services rather than having them covered by bigger business’ insurance packages, like the United States does, health care facilities are more competitive in pricing so that patients will choose their facility for their needs. Devon M. Herrick centers his article, “Medical Tourism: Global Competition in Health Care”, around the financial benefits and global economic effects of this spread of international health care. He argues that as more insured American patients continue to go abroad for medical procedures, medical tourism will result in competition that is needed in the American health care industry and, in turn, change the health care system itself (Herrick, 3). The obsession with cost, along with many other factors, has shifted the purpose and main concern of health care from being centered around treatment and the patient’s beneficence, to healthcare being viewed as a business and consumer market. Lamk Al-Lamki, contrary to Herrick, discusses the risk factors in his article, “Medical Tourism”, in which he weighs whether people are more concerned with beneficence or maleficence. In doing so, he makes an argument that it is the responsibility of the health care profession to stop treating medicine and health care like traded goods and services in business and provide treatment based on the patient’s safety and medical ethics over commerce (Al-Lamki, 447). Although medical tourism is appealing in terms of cost and availability as discussed by Herrick, I argue, contrarily, that the risks of safety and ethical malpractice outweigh the benefits of the patient, as proven by Al-Lamki.
The most dominant factor that people seem to think of when considering medical tourism is cost. As stated by both Herrick and Al-Lamki, surgical and other medical procedures are extremely cheaper in countries outside of the United States and Canada. For example, the cost of a coronary artery bypass is around $113,000 in the United States, where as in India, the cost is only $10,000 (Al-Lamki, 445). Rhinoplasty plastic surgery (nose reconstruction), which is often not covered by health insurance in the U.S., is only $850 at Apollo Hospital in New Delhi, India, and costs $4,500 in the U.S. (Herrick, 2). The reason for the drastically cheaper prices abroad is because there are often less or no third party payments. In the United States, health care providers, such as insurance companies, rarely compete for prices since the prices are being paid by larger business. Physicians strongly compete for prices abroad because they want to appeal to patients to choose their business, much like the consumer market (Herrick, 6). Although these prices are appealing to, not only natives of foreign countries, but also to people of other counties now, more than financial factors should be carefully taken into consideration. The cost may be lower abroad, but that is because there is often poor follow-up treatment (Al-Lamki, 445). After surgery, you are required to return back to a doctor in order to...