Moralities in international medical travel: moral logics in the narratives of Indonesian patients and locally-based facilitators in Malaysia

Heng Leng Chee, Andrea Whittaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This paper views international medical travel through the lens of medical migrations and contextualises it within regional historical linkages. Drawing from fieldwork with staff, facilitators, and Indonesian patients in two Malaysian private hospitals, it frames international medical travel as a moral endeavour, and aims to uncover the premises that make this endeavour meaningful and desirable. Understanding moralities as a field of embodied predispositions created in the dynamics of social interaction, we argue that a strand of moral logic underlies the practice of medical travel. We call this the morality of need, which dictates that people do whatever they can for themselves and their families’ medical needs, including travelling abroad, as well as ‘help others’ by giving information and accompanying them overseas for their medical needs. This moral logic co-exists in tension with a morality of business that accepts the legitimacy of generating earnings from people’s medical needs. Within this moral framework, international medical travel is seen as a necessary practice for sustaining health and well-being, and extends beyond the family as social and moral support for others facing similar predicaments.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2019


  • Indonesian patients
  • International medical travel
  • Malaysia
  • medical tourism
  • moralities

Cite this