June 2012

Glenn Cohen Named Greenwall Faculty Scholar

I Glenn Cohen, JD, Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, will analyze legal and ethical questions raised by medical tourism in a project entitled Patients with Passports: Medical Tourism, Law, and Ethics.

Medical tourism includes travel to obtain interventions that are prohibitively difficult to obtain in the patient’s home country, such as kidney transplantation for some patients. Medical tourism may also include travel to obtain interventions that are illegal in the patient’s home country, such as certain types of stem cell transplantation or assisted reproduction. Increasingly, patients also travel to obtain interventions that are both legal and available in their home country but cost much less abroad, such as coronary bypass surgery. Professor Cohen will analyze numerous ethical dilemmas and legal problems in medical tourism. For example, how should kidney specialists in the U.S. respond when patients inquire about purchasing a kidney transplant abroad? Are nephrologists who advise patients on higher-quality centers abroad acting in the patient’s best interests or encouraging illegal or unethical behavior? Should these physicians provide care for a patient who purchased an organ transplant despite their advice? On a policy level, may employers or insurers offer incentives or set requirements for patients to obtain expensive services abroad in order to reduce costs? If patients are injured as a result of substandard care in other countries, what legal recourse do they now have and what should they have?  In addition, Professor Cohen will also analyze how medical tourism may impact professional ethics and health care delivery in the U.S.