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Owing to critical differences in the prices and ready accessibility of medical services in the West and the Middle East today, there has been a rapid rise in foreign demand for medical treatment in Thailand. Thailand attracts medical tourists because it offers high quality and readily accessible medical services at affordable rates, while enabling patients to combine treatment with vacationing. This explorative study focuses on some key sociological issues at the core of the development process of the Thai medical tourism sector: the commodification of Thai medicine; the emergence and growth of foreign-oriented medical services; the creation of “hotel-spitals,” business-like hospitals, combining high-class medical and hospitality services for a foreign clientele; the linkage between foreigner-oriented medical establishments and the tourism industry; and the consequences of the development of the medical tourism sector on the Thai medical system. The directions of future development of the sector are outlined as a conclusion.
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