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Medical Tourism Now Includes Things Like 'Dialysis Cruises'

March 10, 2013 at 6:13 PM | by | ()

Today we learned that there are such things as dialysis cruises, and that they're part of a burdgeoning medical tourism industry that apparently "is increasingly recognized as an opportunity for the travel industry." We remember when tourists used to go abroad to faraway lands where they could view amazing monuments unthought of in their little parts of the planet. Now they go from Germany to Hungary to get their teeth worked on.

The Reuters article providing this insight also noted that a recent survey found that as many as 52% of Europeans could imagine themselves being medical tourists. That photo at the top of this page? It comes from the Flickr stream of Panama's tourism board, and it's there to promote the country as a medical tourism destination. Among its tags are "medical tourism," "Panama surgery," and "Panama cosmetic surgery." No but really, humanity's on the right path.

In theory, of course, there's nothing wrong with seeking medical attention in a different country. The article cites a bunch of good reasons for why someone might want to, including coming home from overseas to be close to their family during surgery. Another reason might be that a particular kind of treatment may be flat out unavailable where a patient lives. Cost is of course a third reason, and making vacations medically possible—as with dialysis cruises—is a fourth. All fair enough and, if we were pushed, we'd probably have to concede that there's nothing really wrong about the idea.

Of course, if tourists pair medical travel with actual vacations, all the better. Reuters found an actual medical tourism company (called Dr. Holiday) that builds itineraries around medical appointments. Also fair enough.

But there's still something about the whole label of "medical tourism" that just rubs us the wrong way. Overall tourism grew by just 4% in 2012, but Dr. Holiday reported double-digit growth and they expect to see an 18 percent rise this year. Maybe it's just that we wish the numbers were the other way around. What do you think? Sound off in the comments.

[Photo: thinkpanama / Flickr]

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