Ethnocentrism Is an Unacceptable Rationale for Health Care Policy: A Critique of Transplant Tourism Position Statements


* Corresponding author: Roger W. Evans,


Medical tourism has emerged as a global health care phenomenon, valued at $60 billion worldwide in 2006. Transplant tourism, unlike other more benign forms of medical tourism, has become a flashpoint within the transplant community, underscoring the uneasy relationships among science, religion, politics, ethics and international health care policies concerning the commercialization of transplantation. Numerous professional associations have drafted or issued position statements condemning transplant tourism. Often the criticism is misdirected. The real issue concerns both the source and circumstances surrounding the procurement of donor organs, including commercialization. Unfortunately, many of the position statements circulated to date represent an ethnocentric and decidedly western view of transplantation. As such, the merits of culturally insensitive policy statements issued by otherwise well-intended transplant professionals, and the organizations they represent, must be evaluated within the broader context of foreign relations and diplomacy, as well as cultural and ethical relativity. Having done so, many persons may find themselves reluctant to endorse statements that have produced a misleading social desirability bias, which, to a great extent, has impeded more thoughtful and inclusive deliberations on the issues. Therefore, instead of taking an official position on policy matters concerning the commercial aspects of transplantation, international professional associations should offer culturally respectful guidance.