The dark side of medical tourism: ”

The phenomenon of medical tourism– of patients traveling abroad for surgery or other medical procedures– has received a certain amount of attention recently. Most of the stories chronicle how both patients and practitioners are taking advantage of global differences in labor costs: one Thai plastic surgeon returned his home country after decades of practicing in northern California, opened a clinic near a resort– and sees some of the same patients he had in Marin County.

But there’s a dark side to medical tourism, captured in the title of this recent Guardian article:

UK transplant patients go to China for organs from executed prisoners

The British Transplantation Society said that ‘an accumulating body of evidence suggests that the organs of executed prisoners are being removed for transplantation without the prior consent of either the prisoner or their family’.

Thousands of organs are thought to be involved in the lucrative trade, it said. Transplant centres, patients, and the Chinese authorities and judiciary could all be implicated in a breach of human rights….

[E]vidence from doctors who have left China suggests that many patients are travelling for kidney or liver transplants, perhaps in desperation because of the shortages of donor organs in their own country. Most patients came from Japan and Korea and there were quite a few reports of Chinese Americans returning to China for their operation, he said.

Websites of Chinese transplant centres openly tout in English for business from foreigners. Although they do not suggest the organs come from executed prisoners, they offer a fast supply – between a week and a maximum of a month for a kidney transplant. One website declares: ‘Viscera providers can be found immediately!’

There’s something lost in any translation that comes out ‘viscera providers.’

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(Via IFTF’s Future Now.)