Dworkin, death-panels, drug research etc

by Chris Bertram on September 3, 2009

Reading the current US debate on health care from the outside is pretty dispiriting. It is an example of what happens to rational debate in circumstances of inequality where vested interests and partisan pundits can distort discussion by throwing loads of noise, fear and disinformation into the conversation. Still, that’s no reason not to try to have a conversation about which principles ought to obtain, and I think for that it is hard to beat Ronald Dworkin’s paper “Justice in the Distribution of Heath Care”, _McGill Law Journal_, 38 (1993), pp. 883-98 (though I’m looking at the reprint in Clayton and Williams eds _The Ideal of Equality_ ).

Dworkin’s “central idea”:

bq. … we should aim to make collective, social decisions about the quantity and distribution of health care so as to match, as closely as possible, the decisions that people in the community would make for themselves, one by one, in the appropriate circumstances, if they were looking from youth down the course of their lives and trying to decide what risks were worth running in return for not running other kinds of risks. (C&W, 209)

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