Travelling abroad to access procedures such as IVF, genetic diagnosis and sex selection are becoming increasingly common—bringing with them a host of ethical quandaries. George Winter explores
Although travelling abroad for the sake of one's health is centuries old—Lourdes, for instance, or ‘taking the waters’ in spas—the concept of so-called ‘medical tourism’ has increased in popularity in recent years. Lunt et al (2011: 2) define medical tourism as ‘when consumers elect to travel across international borders with the intention of receiving some form of medical treatment … [it] most commonly includes dental care, cosmetic surgery, elective surgery and fertility treatment.’
Missing from the list is abortion, as exemplified by many Irish women who travelled across international borders to obtain terminations that were illegal in their home country (Mulligan, 2015) until the referendum in June this year.
Fertility treatment belongs to a category that has been variously described as ‘reproductive tourism’, ‘transnational reproduction’, ‘reprotravel’ and ‘cross-border reproductive care’ (CBRC). The most common fertility treatments associated with CBRC are in vitro fertilisation (IVF); intracytoplasmic sperm injection; sperm, egg or embryo donation; commercial surrogacy; pre-implantation genetic diagnosis; sex selection and fertility preservation (Salama et al, 2018). Legal constraints, expense in home countries, privacy issues and cultural familiarity are some of the factors helping to drive the popularity of CBRC (Salama et al, 2018).
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