Should the more severely ill get priority?

By Daniel M. Hausman.

According to surveys most of the population in many countries maintain that health policy should favour treating those who are more severely ill, even if  the benefit to them is somewhat less than the benefit the same resources could have provided to those who are less severely ill. Most bioethicists who have addressed this the question agree. In “The Significance of Severity,” I challenge this near consensus. The relevant concept of severity is ill-defined and inconsistent with measures of health-related quality of life, and the justifications that philosophers have offered in terms of egalitarianism, prioritarianism, or simply compassion all fail. It is questionable whether the priority that so many favor giving to the more severely ill has any justification.

Paper title: The Significance of Severity

Author:  Daniel M. Hausman

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Competing interests: None

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