I will never forget the first Canadian medical tourist I interviewed. I was gripped when this person told me about travelling abroad for invasive surgery, accompanied by their spouse. While in India, this spouse required emergency surgery to address a chronic condition that had worsened.
This situation sounded so distressing and the researcher in me wondered: Could the mental and physical stress of caregiving in an unfamiliar, international context have negatively impacted the spouse’s health to the point that surgery was required?
There are many reasons why patients opt to seek health care abroad. In some cases, it is because they cannot access timely surgery locally. In others, they are seeking an experimental procedure that is not available at home, such as an unapproved stem cell therapy.
For most of the last decade I have been involved in extensively studying medical tourism. I have spoken with patients, policy-makers, doctors, nurses, tourism official