23 Jan A hub for ethical medical tourism
The home of Hippocrates continues to be a center for medical excellence that attracts increasing numbers of patients from around the world
About 2,500 years ago, the father of modern medicine was born on the Greek island of Kos: Hippocrates. Through the school that he founded on the island, Hippocrates was the first to approach medicine as a science based on treating patients as individuals.
His teachings, which transformed the way doctors practiced, included the Hippocratic Oath—the binding agreement medical practitioners around the world still make to this day when they join the profession. The oath commits them to upholding ethical standards, including treating patients to the best of their ability and sharing knowledge. The continued importance of that oath and Greece’s role in the foundation of ethical medicine is demonstrated by the increasing number of doctors from across the world that are traveling to retake their oaths at the ancient Hippocrates Asclepeion, meaning holistic healing center, on Kos. According to one of them, Dr. Filippo Maria Ubaldi, clinical director of Italy’s General Center of Reproductive Medicine, “Every doctor should come to this place to feel its energy, connect with the past and understand that medicine started here.”
The revival of these oath-taking ceremonies is an initiative of the International Health Tourism Center (IHTC), a non-profit cooperative body that supports the development and promotion of high-quality medical and tourism services in its members’ countries. The organization has also been responsible for a number of recent conferences at which the world’s medical professionals have collaborated on advancing practices in health tourism. Those conferences have taken place in Greece—the natural choice of location, as the country continues to be a center of ethical and patient-focused medical excellence centuries after Hippocrates’ death.
A perfect illustration of this is Genesis Athens Clinic, which was founded by the globally acknowledged expert in infertility treatment, Dr. Konstantinos Pantos, who is also vice president of IHTC. Dr. Kostas Sfakianoudis, a partner at Genesis Athens and another leading infertility specialist, explains some of the clinic’s achievements: “We can offer our patients a success rate of 50 percent, which is double the natural success rate of women without fertility problems. Every year, we have many patients over the age of 45 that become pregnant and reach motherhood with their own eggs. One way we achieve this is through an innovative, platelet-rich plasma technique I introduced to rejuvenate the ovaries of older women, which works for about 30 percent of patients.”
“People trust our services. In addition, thanks to its weather and Mediterranean location, Greece is the ideal destination for medical tourism.”
– Konstantinos Pantos, Founder and Scientific Director Genesis Athens Clinic
Genesis Athens expertise has made the dream of parenthood come true for thousands, including Australian actress Mary Coustas, who had previous- ly had over 20 rounds of unsuccessful in vitro fertilization (IVF) in her own country, and 48-year-old Bollywood actress Tania Zaetta, who gave birth to twins through egg donation on her first attempt. Successes like this have made Greece a hub for medical tourism. “People trust our services,” says Pantos. “In addition, thanks to its weather and Mediterranean location, Greece is the ideal destination for medical tourism. Then there is cost, as the price of IVF, for instance, is about a fifth of the price in the U.S.,” he adds.
An important component of the Hippocratic oath is for doctors to share their expertise, notes Pantos: “One way we are doing this is through a cam- paign to raise awareness of the quality in Greece’s medical sector that has been organized by the Greek Medical Tourism Council ELITOUR. So far, we have traveled to New York, Chicago, Montreal, Sidney, Los Angeles and London to showcase our services and to allow people to speak directly to patients who have found success with us.” China is the latest country to recognize the excellence of Greek medical services. In 2019, the IHTC agreed to collaborate on educational programs with universities in Anhui. “We also signed a coop- erative agreement to develop IVF services in China using the Genesis brand,” states Pantos. Another focus for him is encouraging doctors who moved away from Greece during its financial crisis to return and participate in the growing medical tourism sector,: “There are opportunities developing everywhere.”