Economics, Ethics and Public Policy
Chapter 1: Medical travel: the nature of the beast
The link between international travel and medical attention is not new. The sheikhs, the sultans, the princes and the plutocrats have long been going to Harley Street, Johns Hopkins, the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic for their health. Before them there were the Roman hot springs, the pilgrimage to Lourdes, the sanatorium in the Alps and the powdered rhinoceros horn that made old people young. What is new is not the existence of medical travel but its extent. In earlier times it was only the very rich who went abroad for medical attention. Rising incomes have put paid to the privilege. Transnational care has become a topic in inclusion and democracy. Like pepper, camphor and bananas, what was once a minority interest is becoming a widespread expectation. Northñsouth, southñnorth, northñnorth, southñsouth, it is not a one-way street or even a two way turnpike so much as a spaghetti junction. We are all increasingly mixed up. Cuba was the first country to promote mass healthcare travel. In the early 1990s, turning the United States trade embargo to its own advantage, it targeted the Spanish-speaking nations in Central and South America and did so at a profit (Goodrich, 1993). Other countries followed suit, often specialising in affordable cosmetic surgery for North American clients. There are currently between 70 and 80 countries, highly diversified, that are actively competing for the market.
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