Context and scale: Distinctions for improving debates about physician “rationing”


Authors
Daniel Sulmasy
Georgetown University
Abstract
Important discussions about limiting care based on professional judgment often devolve into heated debates over the place of physicians in bedside rationing. Politics, loaded rhetoric, and ideological caricature from both sides of the rationing debate obscure precise points of disagreement and consensus, and hinder critical dialogue around the obligations and boundaries of professional practice. We propose a way forward by reframing the rationing conversation, distinguishing between the scale of the decision and its context avoiding the word “rationing.” We propose to shift the terminology, using specific, descriptive words to defuse conflict and re-focus the debate towards substantive issues. These distinctions can clarify the real ethical differences at stake and facilitate a more constructive conversation about the clinical and social responsibilities of physicians to use resources ethically at the bedside and their role in allocating medical resources at a societal level.
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DOI 10.1186/s13010-017-0048-6
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