Questions to ask about Medical Tourism before you go abroad
TREATMENT ABROAD CAN HAVE UNEXPECTED PROBLEMS
A recent case of rabies in a British hospital highlighted this is a deadly killer disease; anyone bitten by a rabid dog will die, unless given preventative vaccine, and rabies can be transferred from one human’s organs to another.
Yet how many medical tourists looking for organ transplants abroad will query if the donor has been tested for rabies?
At the very least you need to be assured that before you receive a cornea, or an organ, exhaustive tests have been carried out to ensure that the donor has not been incubating rabies.
There have been cases of a donor having been bitten by a rabid animal, and incubating rabies. It takes some time time after a bite before the disease is evident, but in the meantime rabies is present in the donor’s body. Then, they become donors, and the patient receiving the cornea or organ contracts rabies.
Medical Tourism is here to stay. Countries are investing heavily in attracting potential clients, but unless patients take note of the dangers, and insist on checks, there is a danger to anyone going abroad for this type of medical tourism. Ask any doctor how many patients return with problems after procedures, from dental work to hip replacements abroad, and they can tell of cases which have to be sorted out by private or NHS doctors in Britain. If the package offered looks too good to be true – it probably is.
Medical Tourism is now big business, and like all businesses, companies want to make a profit. Some countries do offer very good value for money, such as France and Italy, mentioned elsewhere, and Malta, where many of the medical staff have been trained in Britain. Top British Consultants work there as they like working with well-trained English-speaking staff, and the Maltese Government is making available £40 million for patients wanting loans for medical treatment.
In your GP’s surgery you may come across the National Association of Primary Care’s backing for a magazine, highlighting treatment options in other countries. Patients will see these articles and assume treatment abroad will be like a holiday, but as John du Vois, spokesman for AXA PPP Insurance says, “one should go in to this with eyes wide open”.
Currently, most tourists going abroad for medical treatment assume going in to hospital will protect them from complications, but travel expert Alan Bowen of AGB Associates comments “most travel insurance policies will almost certainly specifically exclude all forms of medical treatment, if that was the reason for the travel in the first place”.
Problems arise when patients fly to an idyllic destination for treatment, simple procedures go wrong, and the nearest major hospital capable of dealing with an emergency is a long boat or plane ride away.
Or undergoing an organ transplant, something goes wrong: Google has pages of examples.
When Kris Shastri of InsureCancer saw a gap in the market for patients who couldn’t access reasonably priced travel insurance, he developed a pioneering insurance risk assessment and underwriting methodology to provide this, and recently has been considering extending travel cover for medical tourism. He asks searching questions about the names of doctors, clinics or hospitals, and then checks these to ensure the care offered is of the best. If he refuses you insurance, it is for a good reason. (see under Insurance).
So before you are seduced by glossy brochures showing patients strolling arm-in-arm with a pretty nurse under palm trees – check if anyone will insure you. It might save you from making a dreadful mistake.