Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 395–406 | Cite as

The Ethics of Medical Practitioner Migration From Low-Resourced Countries to the Developed World: A Call for Action by Health Systems and Individual Doctors

  • Charles Mpofu
  • Tarun Sen Gupta
  • Richard Hays
Original Research


Medical migration appears to be an increasing global phenomenon, with complex contributing factors. Although it is acknowledged that such movements are inevitable, given the current globalized economy, the movement of health professionals from their country of training raises questions about equity of access and quality of care. Concerns arise if migration occurs from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to high-income countries (HICs). The actions of HICs receiving medical practitioners from LMICs are examined through the global justice theories of John Rawls and Immanuel Kant. These theories were initially proposed by Pogge (1988) and Tan (1997) and, in this work, are extended to the issue of medical migration. Global justice theories propose that instead of looking at health needs and workforce issues within their national boundaries, HICs should be guided by principles of justice relevant to the needs of health systems on a global scale. Issues of individual justice are also considered within the framework of rights and social responsibilities of individual medical practitioners. Local and international policy changes are suggested based on both global justice theories and the ideals of individual justice.


Migration Ethics International medical graduates Health workforce Health systems Global justice 



We would like to acknowledge the contribution of Dr Stephen Chadwick of Massey University for his constructive comments on the philosophy section of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Health SciencesAuckland University of TechnologyAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of Medicine and DentistryJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.School of MedicineUniversity of TasmaniaTasmaniaAustralia

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