Oral Presentation Australasian Association of Bioethics & Health Law and New Zealand Bioethics Conference

Child medical tourism: opportunities and hazards of 21st century global healthcare  (949)

Neera Bhatia 1
  1. Deakin University, Burwood, VIC, Australia

Disagreements between parents and healthcare professionals about treatment decisions for critically ill children have recently received global attention. High-profile U.K cases like Ashya King and Charlie Gard have illuminated greater involvement of parents in medical treatment decision making. They have highlighted the increasing role of social media and the internet to gain social support, and information about innovative treatments being readily available, without real world considerations about their efficacy or appropriateness. Innovative treatments may be available in a global market, increasing pressure on parents to access them through child medical tourism.

Child medical tourism might occur in circumstances where parents take their child from their home country to a destination country to receive medical treatment. It is relatively common, but little research has been conducted to understand the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘where’: of parents seeking to take their child overseas for treatment, and the resulting impact on the child. Child medical tourism raises a number of opportunities and hazards, including concerns about the rights of the child, privacy and balancing cultural differences between countries.  

Innovative treatments offer hope to parents and the child where conventional treatments have failed. Access to unproven innovative treatments can increase the risk of medical quackery, despite this, child medical tourism seemingly offers increased access to treatments for the child and increased choices for parents. Further, potentially relieving the strain on the healthcare system of the home country and injecting funds into the destination country. Do the opportunities of child medical tourism outweigh the concerns?