The Concept of Harm and Dilemma of Medical Tourism in the Time of Pandemic: A Case of Medical Referral from Cambodia to Taiwan

Bunrong Kouy


Medical tourism is a practice, whereby individuals travel across national borders with the intention of receiving medical care. Medical tourists are motivated to travel abroad by a number of factors, including the affordability of care abroad, access to treatments not available at home, and waiting times for care at home. While medical tourists enjoy the benefits that medical tourism brings, there are ethical problems associated at a macro and micro level. At the micro level, there are questions related to access to information, doctor and patient responsibility, validity of informed consent, additional medical risks, and standards for good clinical practice, privacy and confidentiality.1 At the macro level, concerns are raised about commercialization of healthcare, access to health care, equity, state obligations and responsibilities, and the necessity of legislation. In this article, we could not discuss at length on each problem for the fact that the world is still suffering from pandemic with more variables and difficulties. Since either medical treatment carried locally or in a foreign country, medical services are supposed to provide benefits or at least not to cause serious harms to patients. Therefore, the author brings out a case of medical referral from Cambodia to Taiwan during COVID-19 pandemic that showcases an ethical dilemma of healthcare providers whether “to transfer at all means or to let die gradually” since there is a gap in medical practices between origin and target treatment destination resulting in irreversible treatment. We shall consider the choice of physician and hospital in charge as harm is the topic of discussion.