Medical Tourism, Access to Health Care, and Global Justice
I Glenn Cohen
Medical tourism – the travel of patients from one (the “home”) country to another (the “destination”) country for medical treatment – represents a growing business. A number of authors have raised the concern that medical tourism reduces access to health care for the destination country’s poor and suggested that home country governments or international bodies have obligations to curb medical tourism or mitigate its negative effects when they occur.
This article is the first to comprehensively examine both the question of whether this negative effect on access to health care occurs for the destination country’s poor, and the normative question of the home country and international bodies’ obligations if it does occur. I draw on the work of leading theorists from the Statist, Cosmopolitan, and Intermediate camps on Global Justice and apply it to medical tourism. I also show how the application of these theories to medical tourism highlights areas in which these theories are underspecified and suggests diverging paths for filling in lacunae. Finally, I discuss the kinds of home country, destination country, and multilateral forms of regulation this analysis would support and reject.