In Medical Tourism and Inequity in India, Kristen Smith explores Indian private hospitals and their role in the global healthcare service supply chain within various religious, social, cultural, historical, and economic contexts. Drawing on critical medical anthropology theories as well as health and human rights perspectives, Smith problematizes the assumed independence between the medical tourism industry, the commodification of the Indian healthcare system, and the local populations facing critical health issues, while highlighting the rapid transformation of healthcare services into merely another global commodity.
Kristen Smith is senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne.
Introduction: Tensions, Conflicts and Contradictions
Chapter 1: ‘First World Treatment at Third World Prices’
Chapter 2: Medical Tourism and the Hyper-commodification of Healthcare
Chapter 3: The Intersections of Tourism and Health: The Marketization of Medical Tourism
Chapter 4: Places in Peril: Medical Tourism and the Transitioning of Trust
Chapter 5: Mobility, Identity and the Global Imaginary: The Worlding of the Healthcare Workforce
Chapter 6: The Structural Violence of Medical Tourism: Gated Enclaves and Health Exclusion
Kristen Smith has written a penetrating analysis revealing that medical tourism constitutes one more example of the unequal economic relationships between the Global North and the Global South. She argues that the while the medical tourist industry bills itself as a strategy for overcoming deficiencies in failing public health systems in countries like India, the juxtaposition of luxurious settings of international patient suites in corporate and even public hospitals and overcrowded and dilapidated wards of public hospitals belie this assertion. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic in recent years also poignantly illustrates the health divide between the affluent and the poor of the world system.
This book presents a thought provoking and well researched case study from India, a country at once experiencing rapid and unfettered expansion of a poorly regulated private health care market promoted by neoliberal policies, and home to a local population heavily reliant on private medical care for which it largely pays out of pocket despite the existence of insurance schemes. Smith astutely problematizes the growth of medical tourism in India today and raises key questions about the economics and ethics of promoting medical tourism in countries where adequate, affordable, and safe primary healthcare is not yet available.
This book successfully shows how the shifting economic structure of tertiary healthcare has significantly increased the flow of medical tourists in India, yet its local impacts have been catastrophic. Overall, this is an enlightening book that is appropriate for researchers of medical tourism and global medicine, and it also provides direction to the medical tourism policymakers and relevant stakeholders in creating a more sustainable business framework.