Medical Tourism is Risky

14 10 2010

Skyrocketing healthcare costs in the U.S. have been a boon to medical tourism, with eager patients globetrotting for anything from cosmetic surgery to organ transplantation.

These “medical tourists” often believe they will receive quality care at affordable costs, with the added benefit of recuperating in a vacation spot.  It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?  That’s because it often is.  The quality care they seek may not be what they get.

There are several reasons to pause before packing, including ethical concerns related to organ and tissue donor sources, and legal and physical issues should one be harmed rather than helped by the procedure and follow-up care.

Another worry includes the potential for infection with a superbug that is resistant to most drugs.  Traveling patients could be bringing home serious infections along with their newly formed scars.

Currently, the number of identified cases of infection with a superbug in the U.S. is small.  However, the potential for antibiotic-resistant bacteria (the superbug) to grow in dominance is real.  There has been some success in treating these superbugs with an older drug (Colistimethate), but this drug has a number of toxic side effects.

Potential medical tourists need to ponder the risks, including exposure to a drug-resistant superbug that may not only endanger them, but also contribute to a global public health problem.