PMD: Birth Tourism - Should Physicians be Disciplined?

By DrRandomFactor (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By DrRandomFactor (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 Welcome to this week's Future Proof post on Physician's Money Digest (PMD).  I was recently introduced to the world of "birth tourism" by a Chinese relative.  While I quickly turned down her request, it got me thinking about doctors and our roles in such a controversial issue.  As usual, read the full post at PMD.  An excerpt is provided below.  

If you've never heard of "Birth Tourism", you would be like me 1 month ago.  But my interest was peaked when my niece who lives in China contacted me and asked for a review of the doctors and hospitals she was considering for the purpose of birth tourism.  After doing some research, I kindly declined to comment.  But I could not stop thinking about it and the doctors involved.
What is Birth Tourism?
Birth tourism refers to the act of traveling to another country (usually a more affluent one) for the purpose of giving birth to an anchor baby.  US and Canada are popular destinations given their Jus Soil policy toward citizenship - you are considered an American citizen if you are born on American soil no matter where your parents are from.  This has led to a large number of foreign women flocking to America to give birth.  Once the American-born child reach the age of 21, he/she can then petition for the parents to become lawful residents and eventually citizens of America.  This is not a uniquely Chinese problem.  But as incomes rise in Mainland China, more and more Chinese women are arriving in the US for the goal of giving birth to an American citizen.  California in particular is a hotbed for "maternity hotels". 
How I got interested
About 1 month ago, I received a message from my niece who lives in China on the popular instant messaging app WeChat.  Honestly I was surprised because this was someone I haven't spoken to in over 10 years.  This is what she sent me:
For those of you who don't read Chinese, let me explain.  The above image is a screenshot from a online forum posting advertising birth tourism packages (all prices in US dollars):
  • First Column - Hospital, all of which are in California. Hospitals in red fonts are those without NICUs.
  • Second Column - Prices for natural vs. caesarean births during 24, 48 or 72 hr hospital stays.  Cedar Sinai (Row 2) and UCLA Reagan Medical Center (Row 3) demand the highest prices.
  • Third Column - Whether there is a Chinese speaking physician and what that particular physician's fees are (natural vs. caesarean births).  As you can tell, they are much higher than the typical insurance reimbursement.  
  • Watermark - Also the poster's Weibo (China's Twitter) handle.  It literally translate into "Dr. Give-birth-in-America Liu" (No relation to yours truly).

Read the rest at PMD, then come back and let me know of your thoughts and comments below.