An Overview of Reproductive Tourism

An Overview of Reproductive Tourism

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2694-0.ch001


This chapter introduces reproductive tourism and delineates the scope of research included in this book. The need for assisted reproduction has bourgeoned, but due to the limitations of technology and legal-ethical barriers the supply side has not caught up. Medical tourism providers have identified countries and regions that are relatively friendly to assisted reproduction and Greece is often listed as one of them. A case study of reproductive tourism in Greece will provide the contextual richness for the analysis contained here.
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Assisted reproduction has expanded considerably over the last three decades, due to scientific progress, but also furthered by a multitude of other factors. Changing preferences as to an individual’s life course, societal pressures and greatly enhanced availability of information are counting prominently among them (McKinsey & Company, 2012). Persons seeking assisted reproduction (AR) have become older, more numerous and better informed. And they are needier, because the ability to conceive and to father is decreasing by age – time-delayed, as to women and men, but, for both sexes, decreasing (Lunt et al., 2011).

Furthermore, mobility has increased greatly. The ability of more people to travel more far for less is contributing to what is the broader framework of this research: Medical tourism (UNWTO, 2014). This term comprises every form of travelling – mainly, albeit not necessarily, going abroad – for the purpose of medical treatment (UNWTO, 2014). This includes standard medicinal procedures, but also plastic surgery, a stay in a health resort or assisted reproduction. The second component of medical tourism – tourism – indicates a desire to not just visit a facility or to hospitalize oneself, but to undergo treatment in circumstances which by themselves contribute to one’s well-being (Boivin et al., 2007). If the properties of the destination were meaningless, the more adequate term would be medical travel. This study claims that, focusing on Greece, destination matters.

Assisted reproduction constitutes a particular part of treatment, and so of medical tourism, because it involves particular legal issues (Burkett, 2007). These go beyond the eligibility of a medical facility to carry out the services it offers, extending into the sphere of fundamental moral issues concerning human life (Pennings, 2002). Legislation varies greatly from country to country, ranging from absence of any restriction to AR being generally considered a criminal offence (Burkett, 2007). A number of states lie in between, permitting some forms of AR while outlawing others.

This situation creates incentives for people affected by particular fertility problems, for which appropriate cures are not available in their home countries due to legal obstacles, to become medical tourists (Burkett, 2007). This applies chiefly to AR techniques which involve fertilization outside the human body (in vitro), thus creating fertilized egg cells or embryos – the delineation between these two terms is varying and it is claimed that there is no difference at all (Brezina, 2012). Often more than one attempt is necessary to achieve conception. This feature of AR being illegal in many countries, wholly or partly, is one driving force for reproductive tourism. Patients having received such a treatment may be compelled to conceal the way they became parents after returning home (Petersen, 2004).

Seen from a business perspective, medical facilities have to take into account legal restrictions placed upon foreign clients. This research does neither neglect moral issues nor discards them as something that can be dispensed with, but rests on the position that Greece’s legislation on AR should be taken as point of reference. So it is regarded as just when Greek medical facilities have foreigners receive medical assistance permitted under Greek law. Respectful towards critics of IVF or ART in general, the author takes the position that Greece, as a democratic country upholding fundamental values of humanity, has rightfully decided to take a liberal stance on assisted reproduction. This aspect is important also in a legal sense, because clients have to take possible extraterritoriality of their home country’s legislation into account (Brezina & Zhao, 2012).

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