Ethics in Medical Tourism
Medical tourism is an emerging form of tourism that provides people with an opportunity to pursue medical care abroad. Initially, medical tourism involved patients travelling from third world countries to developed countries to seek a treatment that is not accessible in their native country (Hartwell 2014 pg. 2). Medical tourists normally visit other nations so that they can receive healthcare at an affordable cost than what they would have to pay if they pursued the same treatment in their country. The popularity of medical tourism has acquired the significant consideration of researchers, policymakers and the media. In fact, the attention has been majorly focused on how this industry upholds the moral code.
It is worth noting that there is a wide range of ethics governing the medical tourism. Ethics refer to the principles of moral code that are followed to govern the conduct of an activity, place or a person. As Cohen (2015 pg. 114) asserts, ethics are an exceptionally essential dimension for medical tourism. The healthcare provider has an ethical responsibility to ensure the provision of high-quality medical care, suitable professional behaviour and to maintain patient privacy. That said, this paper will focus on the ethics of medical tourism. The paper will also encompass the significance of ethics in tourism.
In every year, millions of people travel abroad for medical treatment. Most of the medical tourists prefer to seek medical care abroad because the treatment may be cheaper as compared to their country (Harris 2011 pg. 53). Others may tour to be given a therapy or procedure not available in their country. The most prevalent procedures pursued include heart surgery, organ transplant, and dentistry. In some countries, medical tourism is perceived as risky due to its consequent effects. Notably, the medical tourists are influenced by different issues to choose their destinations. A number of them use health tourism providers as the mediators who can connect them to potential provider hospitals. Organizations that concentrate on medical value travel normally offer nurse case supervisors to help patients with pre-travel and post-travel medical issues (Hodges et al. 2012 pg. 204). In some cases, the organizations may also offer resources for continuation care upon the medical tourist's return.
Without a doubt, medical tourism is governed by various principles of moral codes. It is the ethical responsibility of healthcare providers in the medical tourism to conduct activities in accordance with the attributes and traditions of the host countries and in respect for their practices, customs and laws. The understanding and promotion of ethical values common to humanity, with an assertiveness pf respect and tolerance for the diversity of beliefs, are the cornerstone and the consequences of responsible medical tourism. Cooper et al. (2015 pg. 121) highlight that medical tourists have the responsibility to familiarize themselves with the characteristics and information as regards to the destinations they are preparing to visit. This means that they must be aware of the safety and health risks inherent in any location they visit and behave in a certain manner to reduce those risks. Cohen (2013 pg. 96) also assert that medical tourism should be a beneficial activity for host countries and communities. The people in that country are required to share the social, cultural and economic benefits generated by the tourism. Considerable attention should be paid to the areas that highly attract medical tourists.
In this form of tourism, policies should be enforced in such a manner that they help to develop the living standards of the people in the areas visited and should meet their requirements. The policies should aim to incorporate everyone in the region, to the possible level, in the social and economic aspect (Stolley and Watson 2012 pg. 137). Besides, the professionals in the medical tourism are required to demonstrate concern and cooperation while interacting with the tourists. They should contribute to the physical, spiritual, or cultural fulfilment of the patients and allow them to practice their values. The professionals are expected to concentrate on the safety, health and security of the tourists. It is the obligation of the government or governing body to inform medical tourists about the difficult circumstances, or even risks they may face during their travel (Lunt et al. 2015 pg. 208). Such information should be delivered fairly without inclining in the interests of some people.
Above and beyond, there can be various ethical issues around medium tourism. The patient's need to visit another country and pursue medical treatment generate a perception that the quality of care provided in their native country is very low. This deems the system to be incompetent on an ethical basis, and the requirement to seek health care abroad increases. In a study published by Crooks (2018 pg. 83), it indicated that the healthcare system experiences a negative perception from the public when its citizens decide to look for better care in other developed nations. There arise many concerns as far as the health of the medical tourists is concerned. Some host countries may fail to provide the appropriate care required by the patient. As a result, some complications may arise later, demanding more follow-up procedures that may burden the home country's healthcare system, particularly when it is a socialized treatment and national health insurance kind of system.
Joppe (2012 pg. 1274) points out the concerns that arise during organ transplantation. In these cases, the patient is introduced to non-native diseases or new antibiotic resistance diseases that complicate the life of the tourist even when they return to their native countries. Connell (2011 pg. 29) emphasizes that many participants in his study expressed uncertainty as regards to the pursuit of organs overseas and selection standards for donors, signifying that there was no precise procedures and standards followed. Mostly, as the authors state, patients are not given cautions while going abroad for transplantation and hence they are not able to take vaccine before departing. Due to the uncertain standards of organ screening and insufficient evidence regarding where the organ came from, medical tourists may suffer from various complications after the visit. In fact, most of the medical tourists are not concerned about the impacts of their treatment on the healthy system upon returning to their native country (Botterill et al. 2013 pg. 55).
As far as the universal healthcare system is concerned, the issue of patients seeking medical care may affect the general public. The unrestricted access to healthcare generates the issue of equality in connection to addressing the outcomes or complications caused by the medical tourism (Bristein 2015 pg. 174). This is due to the fact that citizens will be affected by these mutually enforced costs even without participating in medical travel. In fact, this is a major ethical issue in medical tourism. Machaes (2015 pg. 15) argues that most hospitals only focuses on infection control measures, which are not explicit to tackling the safety and health threats that arise from medical tourism. In light of this, it is essential for the healthcare organizations to adopt system-level approaches such as controlling treatment for illegal medical tourism or there should be suitable regulation of medical tourism facilitators.
Patient independence, including through conversant agreement, is a foundation of healthcare ethics and a major ethical concern for medical travelers (Ashcroft 2007 pg. 68). Patients are deceived by false or incomplete information on websites, which affects their informed consent. It is notable that medical tourists may also experience problems in accessing information about success rates and quality of the treatment (Akabayashi 2014 pg. 112). As a result, this could increase patients' incapacities to make a well-versed decision about medical tourism and eventually accepting to risk going abroad. Even though acquiring conversant agreement for medical measures is challenging under ideal contemplations, the global aspect of medical travel generates considerable concerns. Patients may not be informed about the contagious infections in the foreign country and may not be well aware of their conditions. This can make their treatment more complicated and difficult to recover. As a matter of fact, lack of precise information makes the patients not to understand the globally accepted safety protocols.