Risks and Challenges in Medical Tourism

Understanding the Global Market for Health Services

by Jill R. Hodges, Leigh Turner, and Ann Marie Kimball, Editors


A growing number of people are arranging health care abroad to avoid high costs, long wait times, or substandard care. These so-called "medical tourists" travel for a range of medical procedures, including orthopedic surgery, dental implants, fertility treatments, and stem cell injections. This book examines the risks and benefits.

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Cover image for Risks and Challenges in Medical Tourism

July 2012


Pages 329
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Health & Wellness/General

A multidisciplinary international team examines the safety, ethics, and health implications of the emerging global market for health care, and the issues that arise when patients cross borders for medical procedures they cannot afford or access at home, from liposuction to kidney transplants.

Risks and Challenges in Medical Tourism: Understanding the Global Market for Health Services provides an in-depth, comprehensive assessment of the benefits and risks when health care becomes a global commodity. The collection includes contributions from leading scholars in law and public policy, medicine and public health, bioethics, anthropology, health geography, and economics.

This timely and informative handbook looks at medical tourism from the perspective of some of the major regions that send and receive medical tourists, including the United States, the European Union, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. Contributors examine how government agencies, medical tourism companies, international hospital chains, and other organizations promote medical tourism and the globalization of health care. The topics explored include the legal remedies available to medical tourists when procedures go awry; potential consequences when patients cross borders for medical procedures that are illegal in their home countries; the relationship of medical tourism to international spread of infectious disease; and the lack of adequate transnational policies and regulations governing the global market for health services.


  • Provides an in-depth, comprehensive examination of the growing global phenomenon of traveling to foreign countries for medical treatment
  • Brings together experts from a wide range of disciplines to explore the legal, ethical, public policy, and social aspects of the medical tourism industry
  • Examines the role of government institutions, health care providers, medical tourism facilitators, and insurance companies in promoting medical tourism
  • Helps patients and citizens, bioethicists, legal scholars, physicians and other health care professionals, social scientists, and policy-makers better understand the phenomenon of medical tourism
Author Info

Jill Hodges, MPH, MSL, is a writer and editor who explores how globalization affects individuals' lives. She has written extensively on a range of subjects, including patient experience and health care reform. She has worked in health policy at the Puget Sound Health Alliance and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and in journalism as a senior producer at and as a staff writer at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

Leigh Turner, PhD, is associate professor at the University of Minnesota's Center for Bioethics, School of Public Health, and College of Pharmacy. His research examines ethical issues related to medical travel and the emergence of a global market in health services. He is coeditor of The View from Here: Bioethics and the Social Sciences.

Ann Marie Kimball, MD, MPH, is senior program officer of Epidemiology and Surveillance, Infectious Disease, and Global Health at the Gates Foundation. She is professor emerita of epidemiology at the University of Washington's Schools of Public Health and Medicine. Kimball has published widely on the subjects of global trade and infectious diseases, international health regulations and disease surveillance, and is the author of Risky Trade: Infectious Diseases in an Era of Global Trade.



"Like manufacturing, Medicine has globalized, in search of lower costs for services. But a cheaply-made, second-rate cell phone isn’t deadly—shoddy medical care can kill. The promise of medical tourism is bargain liposuction at a sunlit beachside resort in Thailand, but the reality is dark and dangerous in an entirely unregulated marketplace that too often puts profits well above patient well-being. This brave book dissects the realities of medical tourism, and offers bold prescriptions for change and safety."
—Laurie Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health, Council on Foreign Relations

"Risks and Challenges in Medical Tourism is the first book to help define and move forward our understanding of this area. This excellent, timely volume edited by Hodges, Turner and Kimball, provides a lucid, informative exploration of the ethical, legal, public health and social dimensions of medical tourism and the globalization of medical services. It identifies key gaps in our knowledge and important policy decisions that influence medical tourism."
—Dr. Mary Elizabeth Wilson, Harvard School of Public Health

"Traveling abroad for health care continues to grow, and Risks and Challenges in Medical Tourism offers a comprehensive and persuasive treatment of its possible pitfalls and huge potential. With outstanding attention to detail and clarity of presentation, the authors offer candid insight into specific cases across the globe, as well as the broad legal and ethical issues that medical tourism raises.This is a must-read book for all interested in healthcare and medical tourism as it will undoubtedly influence policymakers, health providers, and scholars in both origin and destination countries."
—Milica Z. Bookman, co-author of Medical Tourism in Developing Countries

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