See the World, Have a Baby
The trend for medical tourism began tentatively some 20 years ago, when a few brave souls ventured abroad for expensive dental work, saving themselves thousands of dollars, and frequently being treated by dentists who were trained in the U.S. Today, however, medical tourism is off and running, for everything from cardiology to cosmetic surgery to kidney transplants, as Americans increasingly realize that a number of other countries have excellent health care equal to and sometimes surpassing that in the U.S. In the case of fertility treatments, the cost is also an astounding 50 to 90 percent lower.
No longer a cottage industry, medical tourism grew by 20 percent in 2009, and is projected to grow a further 35 percent this year. By 2012, according to a 2009 report by the Deloitte Center For Health Solutions, as many as 1.6 million Americans may be traveling abroad for medical care each year. A survey in the same report showed that 43 percent of Americans now say they would be willing to travel for a medical test or procedure if the cost was 50 percent lower.
If those statistics surprise you because you’ve always believed that American health care is the best in the world, think again, says Gerald Celente, director of The Trends Research Institute in New York, who is much quoted in the business media. “According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. currently ranks 39th in the world for infant mortality; 37th for health care, and 24th for longevity,” he says. We also rank last among 19 industrialized countries in preventable medical deaths.
“Americans need to rethink that we are first in very much at all anymore,” he continues. “In fact, according to the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [one of the world’s most reliable sources of comparable statistics and economic data], the U.S. doesn’t even win, place, or show. There are any number of hospitals around the world where infection control rates, medical outcomes, and patient treatment and satisfaction are much better than ours.”
The technology overseas can also be as up-to-date as it is in the U.S., or sometimes even more modern. For example, while the birth of the world’s first successful IVF (in vitro fertilization) baby took place in the United Kingdom in 1978, the second one was born just 67 days later in India. It would be another three years before the first American IVF baby was born. And while most experts worldwide now consider American fertility medicine the most advanced in the world, that doesn’t mean there aren’t innovative treatments and admirably high success rates elsewhere, too.
The Global Medical Scene
A vibrant international science scene means that many American doctors lend their expertise overseas, and many foreign doctors come here for training. Consider Aydin Arici, M.D., professor and director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, who is one of the most prominent and sought-after fertility experts in this country. Additionally, he holds the prestigious position of examiner for reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Three years ago, he was asked to consult in the development of the ob/gyn department at the then-new Anadolu Hospital outside Istanbul, Turkey, which is affiliated with The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. “I lived my first 25 years in Turkey, and last 25 in the U.S., so I’m at home in both countries,” he explains.
Today, Dr. Arici spends one week a month at Yale, and the rest of the time at Anadolu Hospital, running its fertility center. Perhaps not surprising, considering Dr. Arici’s background, Anadolu’s success rates with non-donor IVF for under-35-year-old women is 64 percent, whereas the U.S. national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is 45.8 percent.
Since the economic downturn, a number of infertile American couples in the know are seeking out Dr. Arici at the Turkish hospital. An IVF package with ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection); medications; 17 nights’ lodging at a four-star hotel or apartment; airport transfers; transportation to and from all medical appointments; and concierge services costs $5,800, less than half the cost of just the IVF procedure in the U.S. For more information, visit patientswithoutborders.us/hospitals.asp/medical-travel-hospital/Anadolu+Medical+Center/hid/19.
In January 2010, Anadolu Hospital opened a specially built onsite wing featuring efficiency apartments with kitchens for infertile couples undergoing treatment. Flights from the U.S. to Istanbul run some $800 per person round trip. But before you purchase those plane tickets to Turkey, you need to know that third-party reproduction—the use of donor sperm or eggs, or gestational carriers—is illegal there.
Planes, Trains, and Fertility Clinics|
Mar 04, 2010
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