Balancing small against large burdens

Behavioural Public Policy 2 (1):125-142 (2018)

Abstract

Common principles for resource allocation in health care can prioritize the alleviation of small health burdens over lifesaving treatment. I argue that there is some evidence that these principles are at odds with a sizable share of public opinion, which holds that saving a life should take priority over any number of cures for minor ailments. I propose two possible explanations for this opinion, one debunking and one vindicatory. I also outline how well-designed surveys and moral inquiry could help decide between them. Finally, I consider how priority-setting principles could be adjusted if the view that saving a life always trumps alleviating small burdens were vindicated.

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