Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

"I Went to Mexico and All I Got Was
This Lousy Boob Job"

That is what a t-shirt says in an a picture that appeared in the National Post the same time as this article pointed out to me by Jack. [sorry, I couldn't find the url for the photo so I could link to it].

Diana Burns took the trip of a lifetime to South Africa last fall. She thrilled to the sight of lions and elephants in the wild, took a vineyard tour around scenic Capetown -- and had a few small procedures performed. "I booked a tummy tuck and liposuction, and once I got there I decided to have my eyes done as well," says the Calgary woman. "Then I added two veneers for my front teeth." Burns went home feeling like a new woman.
And it isn't just India or Mexico or South Africa any more.

Countries that are finding a niche in the world of medical tourism include Thailand, Mexico, South Africa, Costa Rica, Argentina, Brazil, India (regarded as a leader in eye surgery) and a number of Eastern European nations.

... Some 600,000 foreign tourists travelled to Thailand for medical treatment last year, generating about 20-billion baht, or approximately $635-million. There, private hospitals can be as luxurious as hotels, and most have an ISO 900x certification, says Dr. Ivos Vander Vegt of Medical Thailand (, which specializes in arranging surgery vacations. Many doctors are trained and educated in Europe or the United States, and have international designations for plastic surgery training.

Vander Vegt contends that plastic surgery procedures in Thailand cost about half what they would cost in Canada. Lasik surgery on two eyes, for example, ranges from US$1,300 to US$1,900; a breast lift will set you back US$1,800 to US$2,300. Medical Thailand has a range of rates for accommodation, from US$10 a night in a guest house, to US$165 a night for a five-star hotel.
Medical tourism is a response to two important forces:

  1. Comparative advantage. It is possible that some medical procedures can, even in the absence of myriad regulations and restrictions in North America, be more efficiently performed in other places.
  2. Restrictions and regulations. Especially in Canada, we have too few physicians emerging from medical schools, and patients are not allowed to pay more to attract additional resources into the medical profession. So they do so elsewhere. It is not at all surprising.

Update: For more on medical economics, see this recent piece by Brian Ferguson.

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