Faculty Journal Articles and Book Chapters

Chapter 9: Into the Void: The Legal Ambiguities of an Unregulated Medical Tourism Market

Nathan Cortez, Southern Methodist University, Dedman School of Law


This chapter, appearing in the book Risks and Challenges in Medical Tourism: Understanding the Global Market for Health Services (Praeger Publishing 2012), explores how the medical tourism market operates in an environment void of legal and regulatory oversight. Given this void, I address seven legal questions surrounding the medical tourism market: 1. Is it illegal for patients to leave the United States for health care? 2. Can patients injured overseas sue in the United States? 3. Can patients injured overseas sue overseas? 4. How might governments regulate medical tourism? 5. Can U.S.-based institutions regulate foreign hospitals and physicians? 6. Is it legal for U.S. insurers to ask patients to leave the country? 7. How will U.S. health reform affect the medical tourism market?

In confronting these questions, a unifying theme emerges: Very few laws and regulations govern medical tourism transactions, largely because these are cross-border transactions consummated in foreign jurisdictions. This creates legal risks for all parties. And the industry is shifting these risks to perhaps the least sophisticated party: patients.