Introduction Page 5 | Seeking Beauty from Afar: How I Got My Smile Back

Competition for the United States

The new context emerged out of the Far East and spread from government officials and hospitals to business journals. In India, Thailand, Malaysia, and other countries, medical tourism was not a fad; it was a business sector, an important part of the new Asian economy. Sure they were doing inexpensive boob jobs, and if that was all it was, maybe the story wouldn’t have changed.

But they were also doing inexpensive open-heart surgery and opening brand-new hospitals that rivaled any in the United States. The story grew in 2004 and spilled out over the Internet. In 2005, it splashed across the front pages and onto cable and network news in the United States. Two premises about traveling abroad for surgery now co-exist, uneasily. The first is that traveling abroad for surgery or medical care is unacceptably risky and should be avoided. This is certainly the general view of the medical profession in the United States, and it is shared by the bulk of the population. If one subscribes to this premise, the idea of traveling abroad to save money on elective procedures such as plastic or cosmetic surgery sounds especially foolhardy, as in, “Who cares if it’s cheap? You don?t even need it!” or “Why not save up until you can afford to do it right?”

The second premise is that the rest of the world, or at least some of it, has caught up with the United States in quality of medical care and facilities, and that going abroad for lower costs can be the best option, especially for high-cost elective and uninsured procedures and surgeries. Under this view, going abroad for plastic and cosmetic surgery is not a last, desperate resort but a best affordable option for the hundreds of thousands, even millions of people who desire such procedures annually. If the doctors and facilities overseas are up to U.S. standards but the prices are 30 to 80 percent less (even factoring in travel expenses), what is so hard about that decision?

There is truth in both premises, of course; and I considered that I was unprepared to write Beauty from Afar until I could argue impressively for either. One thing — perhaps the one thing — that supporters of either view would agree on is that consumers of medical services should do their homework and be as informed as humanly possible about their options. To that end, I offer Beauty from Afar, representing, as it does, about 18 months of day-in, day-out homework and research into traveling abroad for medical care, particularly plastic and cosmetic surgery, and dentistry. This book is intended as an introduction to medical tourism and as a guide to those who might want to consider traveling abroad for health care, whether as a best affordable option or as a last resort.

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