Shifting subjects of health-care: placing "medical tourism" in the context of Malaysian domestic health-care reform

Asia Pac Viewp. 2011;52(3):247-59. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8373.2011.01457.x.


"Medical tourism" has frequently been held to unsettle naturalised relationships between the state and its citizenry. Yet in casting "medical tourism" as either an outside "innovation" or "invasion," scholars have often ignored the role that the neoliberal retrenchment of social welfare structures has played in shaping the domestic health-care systems of the "developing" countries recognised as international medical travel destinations. While there is little doubt that "medical tourism" impacts destinations' health-care systems, it remains essential to contextualise them. This paper offers a reading of the emergence of "medical tourism" from within the context of ongoing health-care privatisation reform in one of today's most prominent destinations: Malaysia. It argues that "medical tourism" to Malaysia has been mobilised politically both to advance domestic health-care reform and to cast off the country's "underdeveloped" image not only among foreign patient-consumers but also among its own nationals, who are themselves increasingly envisioned by the Malaysian state as prospective health-care consumers.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Community Participation* / economics
  • Community Participation* / history
  • Community Participation* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Community Participation* / psychology
  • Delivery of Health Care* / economics
  • Delivery of Health Care* / ethnology
  • Delivery of Health Care* / history
  • Delivery of Health Care* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Government / history
  • Health Care Reform* / economics
  • Health Care Reform* / history
  • Health Care Reform* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Health Care Sector / economics
  • Health Care Sector / history
  • Health Care Sector / legislation & jurisprudence
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Malaysia / ethnology
  • Medical Tourism* / economics
  • Medical Tourism* / history
  • Medical Tourism* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Medical Tourism* / psychology
  • Privatization* / economics
  • Privatization* / history
  • Privatization* / legislation & jurisprudence