Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

HERO Online Working Paper Series,
University of Oslo, Health Economics Research Programme

No 2002:17: The moral relevance of personal characteristics in setting health care priorities

Jan Abel Olsen (), Jeff Ricardson , Paul Dolan and Paul Mentzel
Additional contact information
Jan Abel Olsen: Institute of Community Medicine, Postal: University of Tromsø, 9037 Tromsø, Norway
Jeff Ricardson: Centre for Health Program Evaluation, Postal: Monash University, Vic 3081, Australia
Paul Dolan: Sheffield Health Economics Group, Postal: University of Sheffield, UK
Paul Mentzel: Pacific Lutheran University, Postal: Tacoma, WA, USA

Abstract: This paper discusses the moral relevance of accounting for various personal characteristics when prioritising between groups of patients. After a review of the results from empirical studies, we discuss the ethical reasons which might explain – and justify – the views expressed in these studies. The paper develops a general framework based upon the causes of ill health and the consequences of treatment. It then turns to the question of the extent to which a personal characteristic – and the eventual underlying ethical justification of its relevance – could have any relationships to these causes and consequences. We attempt to disentangle those characteristics that may reflect a potentially relevant justification from those which violate widely accepted principles of social justice.

Keywords: Health care priorities; Ethics; Personal responsibilities; Consequences

JEL-codes: I18; I31

23 pages, June 30, 2009

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