Edited by Neil Lunt, Daniel Horsfall and Johanna Hanefeld
Chapter 2: Medical tourism – concepts and definitions
Medical tourism has never been effectively defined. It is usually conceived as relatively recent travel from the global ‘north’ to the ‘south’, but is much more complex and scarcely new. Definitions take varying note of intent, procedures (that usually exclude wellness and sometimes dentistry) and the role of actual tourism. Refugee movements, formal transfers across adjacent borders, return of diasporic patients, movements of the desperately ill, and the search for ‘last resort’ cures, raise moral, cultural and political issues and challenge easy definition. Balancing medical care, intent, need, duration, gravity and tourism is difficult, and emphasises the extraordinary social, geographical and medical diversity of medical tourism. International medical travel, or transnational healthcare, provide more all-embracing definitions for cross-border movements for medical care, with medical tourism more appropriate for circumstances where tourism plays a substantial role, but medical tourism is likely to remain the primary term since it meets industry’s populist needs.
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