Surgeries, Side Trips for 'Medical Tourists'

by John Lancaster ,  Washington Post Foreign Service | 2004-10-21

Affordable Care at India's Private Hospitals Draws Growing Number of Foreigners

NEW DELHI -- Three months ago, Howard Staab learned that he suffered from a life-threatening heart condition and would have to undergo surgery at a cost of up to $200,000 -- an impossible sum for the 53-year-old carpenter from Durham, N.C., who has no health insurance.

So he outsourced the job to India.

Taking his cue from cost-cutting U.S. businesses, Staab last month flew about 7,500 miles to the Indian capital, where doctors at the Escorts Heart Institute & Research Centre -- a sleek aluminum-colored building across the street from a bicycle-rickshaw stand -- replaced his balky heart valve with one harvested from a pig. Total bill: about $10,000, including round-trip airfare and a planned side trip to the Taj Mahal.

"The Indian doctors, they did such a fine job here, and took care of us so well," said Staab, a gentle, ponytailed bicycling enthusiast who was accompanied to India by his partner, Maggi Grace. "I would do it again."



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