Deliberative Democracy, Public Reason, and the Allocation of Clinical Care Resources

Dissertation, University College London (2014)
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Abstract

This thesis discusses how societies should allocate clinical care resources. The first aim of the thesis is to defend the idea that clinical care resource allocation is a matter for deliberative democratic procedures. I argue that deliberative democracy is justified because of its ability to implement equal respect and autonomy. Furthermore, I address several in-principle objections to the project of applying deliberative democracy to clinical care resource allocation. Most notably, I respond to the narrow view of the scope of deliberative democracy and the critiques of explicit rationing. The second aim of the thesis is to determine what is required by deliberative democracy in clinical care resource allocation. I identify the general requirements that resource allocation agencies should meet, namely public reason, public involvement, transparency, accuracy and revisability. I then examine what is required by deliberative democracy with regard to two particularly salient specific topics, namely the substantive values that should govern resource allocation and the involvement of scientific experts in decision-making. I demonstrate that public reason imposes severe constraints on the substantive values that should be employed. Most of these constraints are rooted in the idea that, under a regime of scarcity, public reason requires that resources be allocated so as to minimise the strongest complaint anyone may have. Out of the variety of values that are commonly proposed as relevant, only priority to the worst-off, ability to benefit, specialness of clinical care and cost are consistent with public reason. Turning to expert involvement, I argue that deliberative democracy can overcome several formidable threats, such as the opacity of expert opinions to laypersons and the tendency to hide uncertainty and disagreement from the public. I also discuss how my proposals on substantive values and expert involvement could be implemented, in order to add to the plausibility of my theory.

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Gabriele Badano
University of York

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