The Case of "Molar City", Mexico: An Ethical Examination of Medical Tourism Industry Practices

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
“Molar city” or Los Algodones, Mexico is characteristic of other medical border towns whose proximity to the Mexico-United States border enables American and Canadian patients to access desired health care. Patients can take advantage of economic asymmetries on either side of the border to purchase desired health care in an easily accessible location. Los Algodones is an exceptional industry site in northern Mexico, however, due to its focus on the provision of dental care and claims by local residents that it has the highest concentration of dentists per capita in the world. In this dissertation, I use a case study of Los Algodones’ dental tourism industry to provide an examination of ethical concerns for medical tourism industry practices. Drawing on findings from qualitative research exploring the perspectives and experiences of diverse industry stakeholders, this study contributes insight into ethical examinations for medical tourism informed by structural exploitation and structural injustice frameworks. By employing these ethical frameworks to examine one particular industry site, this research outlines how structural factors such as competition in the global industry and economic asymmetries between the global north and global south inform unfair localized industry practices. I highlight in this dissertation how industry practices are taken up by various industry stakeholders to maintain the flow of dental tourists to Los Algodones; however, efforts to promote and protect the success of the industry according to the interests of elite industry stakeholders inform practices characterized by the irresponsible use of health resources and degrading interactions. Overall, this research suggests that medical tourism industry development raises health equity concerns for the industry if exploitative practices in different industry sites produce poor labour conditions and access to care barriers for marginalized populations. Further research is needed to explore the utility of these ethical frameworks when examining other industry sites and possible policy implications for mitigating exploitative practices within different contexts of industry development.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Snyder, Jeremy
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