Legitimate Healthcare Limit Setting in a Real-World Setting: Integrating Accountability for Reasonableness and Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis

Public Health Ethics 7 (2):98-111 (2014)
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Abstract

The overall aim of this article is to discuss the organization of limit setting in healthcare in terms of legitimacy. We argue there is a strong ethical demand that such processes should be arranged to provide adversely affected people well-justified reasons to confer legitimacy to the processes despite favouring a different decision-making outcome. Two increasingly popular approaches, Accountability for Reasonableness (A4R) and Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA), can both be applied to support legitimate decision-making processes. However, the role played by ‘fair-minded people’ in the A4R framework can be shown to undermine an adequate conceptualization of legitimacy according to the ethical demand. We discuss and specify conditions enabling A4R to meet this ethical demand when being implemented in a real-world setting without having to renounce the aim of striving for ‘reasonableness’ and impartiality. The methodological approach MCDA describes how to arrange for transparent resource allocation. This approach does not encompass any normative guidance on how to shape limit settings in terms of ‘reasonableness’; it basically promotes ‘rational’ decisions. We discuss how this practical methodology can be integrated with the theoretical A4R framework to meet the ethical demand while at the same time promoting politically required impartiality of healthcare limit setting.

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