One of the trends I’ve seen in the last few months is a growing assortment of medical propaganda that can only be termed ‘medical tourism backlash’. Frighteningly, these writers are often willfully misinformed and published on websites that give the appearance of legitimacy. I’ve included an example here – published on a website called News Junky Journal. The junky part is certainly accurate.
This article is a thinly disguised ad for a US based plastic surgeon – Dr. Delgado and persists in spreading misinformation, untruths and some blatant lies. The author, Charles Hale makes no effort to distinguish between medical tourism destinations, much less the facilities and surgeons themselves but uses a blanket brush to depict all non-US surgeons as poorly trained uncredentialled hacks operating without consideration for patient outcomes due to a lack of fear for repercussions. He presents his ‘facts’ as absolutes – and as all educated consumers know – there are no absolutes. Yes, there are bad surgeons (everywhere – and quite a few unlicensed frauds in the USA as well, as we’ve documented over at Cartagena Surgery as part of a series explaining how to evaluate medical and surgical providers.)
But there are also well-educated, kind, caring EXCELLENT surgeons like the ones we’ve identified during this project. Fear-mongering is not the way to drum up patients or protect people from adverse outcomes. Objective, and honest research is.
There are several other blatant inaccuracies in the above mentioned article – including statements that insurance companies NEVER pay for medical tourism – as we’ve discussed here, and in the book – several American health care companies such as Blue Cross actually have medical tourism divisions to help patients find providers overseas. This medical tourism company helps people use their Health Savings Accounts for medical travel.
He also ignores ‘complication insurance’ as offered by many of the providers interviewed in Bogotá – which explicitly covers the treatment of any surgical complications whether at the destination or after patients return home.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I do think that the medical tourism industry should be regulated – ‘tour operators’ shouldn’t sell the services of people they’ve never met, but to disregard medical tourism as simply a plaything of indulgent people wanting to have surgery while frolicking on the beach, as implied in his last paragraph is ignorant and insulting to the very people who rely on medical tourism as their only option outside of complete financial devastation.
Sadly, I think scare articles like this are only the beginning; as American surgeons (particularly plastic surgeons who rely on elective procedures for their income) continue to feel the effects of a poor economy. But slandering an entire industry and hundreds of thousands of hard-working medical professionals, and terrorizing patients is not the answer.