Medical Tourism

By Haley Southwick and Kristine Hoggard

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Medical tourism is travelling abroad to obtain medical treatment. The main reasons for medical tourism are cheaper medical costs and shorter waiting lists.

Pro’s of Medical Tourism:

The main reason to travel abroad to receive medical care is cost. There are high labor costs in the United States, which drive up the cost of healthcare. Traveling to a place like Bangkok can greatly reduce the price of the procedure being performed. In Bangkok, the total cost of open heart surgery and a week in a hospital is $19,000, compared to the United States where open heart surgery is $80,000 without insurance (Finch, 2014). Bangkok is the most popular place for medical tourism. In 2011, 500,000 tourists visited Thailand for medical treatment (Eden, 2012). Adele Kulyk, CEO of Saskatchewan-based Global Healthcare Connections Inc., said “Why is Thailand so popular? It’s because of the Thai health care system. It’s advanced and affordable, and these are the two most important criteria for would-be medical tourists”(Finch, 2014). Medical tourism helps build the Thai economy because the people who travel to Thailand for medical procedures are often seeking out the more expensive procedures.

Shorter waiting lists are another reason people travel abroad for medical treatment. In Canada open heart surgery is less expensive than in the United States, but long waiting lists have made Thailand a popular choice for Canadians who are in need of heart surgery (Finch, 2014).

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Con’s of Medical Tourism:

As there are pros to every story there’s cons as well. Cons of medical tourism include lack of follow-up care in a patient’s original country, different legislation, less severe malpractice repercussions, language barriers, antibiotic resistance, and risk of deep vein thrombosis post operations, (CDC, 2017). When making a life altering decision such as surgery, one must weigh the pros and cons of the procedure. Traveling to another country there is most likely a language barrier that can lead to miscommunication and several medical errors. If someone would like to travel abroad for a surgery they should establish a way of communicating with staff and medical personnel. Along with language barriers, malpractice laws are different per country. Specifically, Thailand medical malpractice suits can be difficult to follow through to conclusion. If a lawsuit is filed on the basis of malpractice the whole case must be tried in Thailand and this can be expensive and time costly for all those involved. It is also difficult to obtain all medical records across country borders due to differing privacy laws, (Legal Alliance, 2019). After surgery there is always a risk of blood clots, there is also this risk while taking long flights. These two in combination double the risk for a blood clot; which can lead to stroke, mental deficits and even death. Along with risk of blood clots there are different bacteria strains in other countries and antibiotic resistance is a prevalent problem globe wide.


Eden, C. (2012, September 04). Travel – The rise of medical tourism in Bangkok. Retrieved from

Finch S. (2014). Thailand top destination for medical tourists. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne, 186(1), E1–E2. doi:10.1503/cmaj.109-4655. Retrieved from:

The pros and cons of medical tourism. (2009, February 13). Retrieved from

Taosiri, J. (2019). Medical Malpractice in Thailand: What You Need to Know. Retrieved 2019, from

Travelers’ Health. (2017, October 23). Retrieved from






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