Tragic Reminder of the Dangers of Medical Tourism to Mexico
On March 3, 2023, four Americans drove into Matamoros, Mexico, in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas just south of Brownsville, Texas. Shortly after crossing the border, the group of Latavia “Tay” Washington McGee, Zindell Brown, Shaeed Woodard and Eric Williams were fired upon by unidentified gunmen, then placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene. Tragically, two of the abducted friends, Brown and Woodard, did not survive the ordeal.
The United States Department of State has divided its Mexico travel advisories into separate state warnings. Out of 32 states, there is a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory for six, including Tamaulipas where the kidnapping occurred. In October 2022, the U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 travel advisory for six Mexican states. Last Friday, in light of reports of a shooting in Tamaulipas, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico issued a reminder of this advisory.
The four Americans had gone to Mexico for a medical procedure for Washington McGee, who had come from South Carolina. Medical tourism to Mexico is on the rise, but it can come with risks due to complications and quality of care. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the National Exterior Commerce Bank in Mexico estimated that the industry was worth $5 billion; however, it has since declined.
The group was believed to have been mistakenly identified by the Gulf Cartel, which issued an apology letter and handed over five of its members to local authorities. However, Mexican and U.S. law enforcement officials participating in the investigation strongly doubt the sincerity of the group’s apology. The bodies of the two Americans killed in the kidnapping were delivered Thursday to U.S. diplomatic authorities, and two survivors were taken to a Valley hospital Tuesday morning.
Medical tourism may be a way to obtain care at a fraction of the cost in the U.S., but it can be risky. The tragic kidnapping of four Americans serves as a reminder of the dangers of travelling to another country for medical care.
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