Mexico kidnapping of 4 SC natives tied to growing medical tourism trend.

Here’s what to know BY PATRICK MCCRELESS UPDATED MARCH 08, 2023 7:03 PM 00:10 01:17

This specific industry could exceed $30 billion by 2025 With high costs of healthcare in the U.S., the medical tourism industry is booming. Three of the South Carolina kidnapping victims accompanied the fourth to Mexico so she could get medical care — part of a growing U.S. trend of traveling abroad for health treatments.

Latavia “Tay” Washington McGee drove with Zindell Brown, Shaeed Woodard and Eric Williams to Mexico on Friday when they were shot at and kidnapped on Friday, Mexican officials reported. Both Brown and Woodard were killed.

McGee and Williams were later found alive, though Williams had been shot in the leg, Mexican officials reported.

The four had traveled to Mexico for McGee to have a medical procedure. McGee was scheduled on Friday to receive a type of cosmetic surgery, CNN reports.


According to an American Journal of Medicine study, travel to other countries for health care, generally referred to as medical tourism, has been a growing trend among U.S. residents for years.

The study estimated that in 2007, 750,000 Americans traveled to other countries for health care. However, in 2017, more than 1.4 million Americans traveled for medical care in various countries. The number of U.S. medical tourists and the number of medical tourists in the world is expected to increase by 25% per year.

Dental care, cosmetic surgery, fertility treatments, surgery, organ and tissue transplants and cancer treatments are the most common procedures people get on medical tourism trips, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The American Journal study explains that the reason more Americans are traveling abroad for medical treatments is simple: they are seeking less expensive health care.

“Because we have the most expensive health care system in the world, it is not difficult to find countries that offer various procedures at 30%-65% of the cost of care in the United States,” the study states. “Other countries can charge less because of lower pay to physicians and other health care workers, much less overhead because patients pay cash, and subtraction of the substantial cost of malpractice insurance.”

The study notes that medical tourism has become big business, with the value of the entire medical tourist industry estimated at $439 billion per year.

Mexico in particular ranks in the top five medical tourism destinations in the world, with more than 1 million visitors from the U.S., Canada and other countries traveling for health care each year, according to Patients Beyond Borders, an international health care consulting company. It estimates that Americans can save between 40% to 65% on medical care compared to having procedures at home.

The CDC surveyed 93,492 people in 2016 and learned that for those who left the U.S. for medical care the previous year, at 41%, the most common destination was Mexico.


The CDC warns that most of risks associated with medical tourism have to do with the procedures themselves and the level of care provided. Here are some CDC recommendations to help people minimize their risks when traveling abroad for health care.

  • See a health care provider or travel medicine provider at least four to six weeks ahead of traveling to another country. This will give you time to discuss general information for healthy travel and learn specific risks you might face.
  • Get international travel health insurance that covers medical evacuation back the U.S.
  • Bring copies of you medical records with you, along with lab test results related to your condition and care.
  • Get copies of all your medical records from the destination before going home.
  • Research the qualifications of the health care providers who will do the procedure. Accrediting groups, such as Joint Commission International, DNV GL International Accreditation for Hospitals, and the International Society for Quality in Healthcare, have lists of standards that facilities need to meet to be accredited.

This story was originally published March 8, 2023, 12:24 PM.

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