Expats and medical tourists have no legal protection against medical malpractice overseas

Published:  30 May at 6 PM
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One of the major problems of expat life overseas is concern over medical malpractice and the lack of legal protection if anything goes wrong.

Many overseas countries nowadays are setting themselves up as medical tourism hubs, quoting surgical and cosmetic procedures and a fraction of the price of treatment in the UK and USA. Private hospitals advertise modern facilites, luxury accommodation and even a little gentle tourism on the side as part of recuperation.

However, what they don’t often mention is the unreliable quality of their medical staff, or the fact that if something goes wrong, there’s nothing the patient can do about it. The issue has attracted United Nations concern, with the organisation proposing a global treaty covering all patients experiencing overseas medical malpractice.

Most overseas clinics and private hospitals claim to be accredited by the Joint Commission on Healthcare Accreditation. However, the JC, as it’s known, doesn’t enforce its policies, claiming they are simply guidelines and refusing to hold accredited medial facilities responsible for malpractice.

Problems include unlicensed doctors, unethical practices involving false diagnoses, unsuitable treatments or unnecessary procedures, overcharging, language difficulties and poor pre- or post operative care. Expats are as much at risk as medical tourists, with many private hospitals simply in business to make money rather than provide the correct treatments, procedures and appropriate care.

Meanwhile, there’s bad news for expats searching for information on whatever ails them before heading for a local clinic. Wikipedia, it seems, is not your friend, as nine out of every 10 of its medical entries contain errors, including some on serious medical conditions.

The problem, it seems, is that anyone can edit or alter the entries, and the medically qualified volunteers who check the pages can’t be everywhere at once. According to doctors, many mistakes are minor, but some could have devastating consequences.
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