As health policy-makers around the world seek to make progress towards universal health coverage, they must navigate between two important ethical imperatives: to set national spending priorities fairly and efficiently; and to safeguard the right to health. These imperatives can conflict, leading some to conclude that rights-based approaches present a disruptive influence on health policy, hindering states’ efforts to set priorities fairly and efficiently. Here, we challenge this perception. We argue first that these points of tension stem largely from inadequate (...) interpretations of the aims of priority setting as well as the right to health. We then discuss various ways in which the right to health complements traditional concerns of priority setting and vice versa. Finally, we set out a three-step process by which policy-makers may navigate the ethical and legal considerations at play. (shrink)
This report by the WHO Consultative Group on Equity and Universal Health Coverage addresses how countries can make fair progress towards the goal of universal coverage. It explains the relevant tradeoffs between different desirable ends and offers guidance on how to make these tradeoffs.
The goal of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) can generally be realized only in stages. Moreover, resource, capacity and political constraints mean governments often face difficult trade-offs on the path to UHC. In a 2014 report, Making fair choices on the path to UHC, the WHO Consultative Group on Equity and Universal Health Coverage articulated principles for making such trade-offs in an equitable manner. We present three case studies which illustrate how these principles can guide practical decision-making. These case studies (...) show how progressive realization of the right to health can be effectively guided by priority-setting principles, including generating the greatest total health gain, priority for the worse off, and financial risk protection. They also demonstrate the value of a fair and accountable process of priority setting. (shrink)
Clinical ethical support services (CESS) represent a multifaceted field of aims, consultancy models, and methodologies. Nevertheless, the overall aim of CESS can be summed up as contributing to healthcare of high ethical standards by improving ethically competent decision-making in clinical healthcare. In order to support clinical care adequately, CESS must pay systematic attention to all real-life ethical issues, including those which do not fall within the ‘favourite’ ethical issues of the day. In this paper we attempt to capture a comprehensive (...) overview of categories of ethical tensions in clinical care. We present an analytical exposition of ethical structural features in judgement-based clinical care predicated on the assumption of the moral equality of human beings and the assessment of where healthcare contexts pose a challenge to achieving moral equality. The account and the emerging overview is worked out so that it can be easily contextualized with regards to national healthcare systems and specific branches of healthcare, as well as local healthcare institutions. By considering how the account and the overview can be applied to i) improve the ethical competence of healthcare personnel and consultants by broadening their sensitivity to ethical tensions, ii) identify neglected areas for ethical research, and iii) clarify the ethical responsibility of healthcare institutions' leadership, as well as specifying required institutionalized administration, we conclude that the proposed account should be considered useful for CESS. (shrink)
Enormous gaps between HIV burden and health care availability in low-income countries raise severe ethical problems. This article analyzes four HIV-priority dilemmas with interest across contexts and health systems. We explore principled distributive conflicts and use the Atkinson index to make explicit trade-offs between health maximization and equality in health. We find that societies need a relatively low aversion to inequality to favor treatment for children, even with large weights assigned to extending the lives of adults: higher inequality aversion is (...) needed to share resources equally between high-cost and low-cost treatment; higher inequality aversion is needed to favor treatment rather than prevention, and the highest inequality aversion is needed to favor sharing treatment between urban and rural regions rather than urban provision of treatment. This type of ethical sensitivity analysis may clarify the ethics of health policy choice. (shrink)
We reply to critics of the World Health Organisation's Report "Making Fair Choices on the Path to Universal Health Coverage". We clarify and defend the report's key moral commitments. We also explain its role in guiding policy in the face of both financial and political constraints on making fair choices.
Research Group in Global Health: Ethics, Culture and Economics, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Bergen, Kalfarveien 31, 5018The WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health has documented pervasive inequalities in health in many countries. These are clearly associated with unfair distribution of the social determinants of health. Policies directed at reducing this unfair distribution should be promoted across all sectors and institutions responsible for securing equal opportunities and freedom for all citizens. This article argues that such (...) policies will need to balance the competing goals of reducing social group inequalities in health and improving average health. We need a public debate about how to make such difficult choices. This paper outlines a framework that can help us structure our thinking about this dilemma. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
In the Global Burden of Disease study, disease burden is measured as disability-adjusted life years. The paramount assumption of the DALY is that it makes sense to aggregate years lived with disability and years of life lost. However, this is not smooth sailing. Whereas morbidity is something that happens to an individual, loss of life itself occurs when that individual’s life has ended. YLLs quantify something that involves no experience and does not take place among living individuals. This casts doubt (...) on whether the YLL is an individual burden at all. If not, then YLDs and YLLs are incommensurable. There are at least three responses to this problem, only one of which is tenable: a counterfactual account of harm. Taking this strategy necessitates a re-examination of how we count YLLs, particularly at the beginning of life. (shrink)
Next SectionBackground International and national agencies play a major role in setting HIV care-and-treatment priorities in low-income-countries. Little is known about priority setting at lower health-system levels. The objective of this article is to explore experiences of HIV priority decisions, at what levels these decisions are made and how they might influence the distribution of health benefits in a high-endemic region in Tanzania. Methods This is a qualitative study using observations, key documents and semistructured focus-group and individual interviews (43) with (...) health workers, patients and administrators at one regional and one district hospital. The analysis was based on an editing analysis style. Results Health workers did not perceive themselves as bedside rationing agents and they reported following national recommendations and felt they have little impact on important priority decisions. Health benefit distributions were largely determined by priority decisions made at a national level. External factors, such as eligibility criteria, inadequate funding and barriers to access seemed to play a major role in the actual distribution of health services and benefits in the region. Patient groups who were actually given high priority were the sickest patients, those living near a facility and those who could afford long journeys and frequent visits. Low-priority groups were those experiencing other co-morbidities or treatment failure, children, asymptomatic patients and the poorest. Conclusions/significance The interaction of priority setting across health-system levels and their impact on distribution of health outcomes in the population has been underestimated. The distributional pattern of health outcomes calls for further normative assessment. (shrink)
Background and objectives: Summary measures of overall health inequality are independent of group membership and enable international comparisons of distribution of health. We compare inequality between and within countries over time and identify normative issues underlying such comparisons. Methods: We used a set of modeled historical life tables for 193 World Health Organization member states from the years 1990, 2000 and 2008 and calculated inequality in age at death and inequality-adjusted life expectancy. Results: Our calculations suggest that overall health inequalities (...) in age at death have been decreasing in the period 1990–2008 in most countries of the world. Only 20 countries experienced increasing distribution in age at death. Simultaneously, overall life expectancy has increased in 85 per cent of all countries. Thus, the combined measure IALE has improved globally. The same overall trend of reduced health inequality applies to all groups of countries stratified by income level. Conclusion: Overall health inequalities, in addition to average health outcomes, could be reported regularly to monitor the health status of populations and the performance of health systems. We find, on normative grounds, the combined measure IALE to be preferable to measuring trends in inequality only. Likewise, we find the Absolute GiniH to be preferable to Relative GiniH. (shrink)
Introduction High healthcare costs make illness precarious for both patients and their families’ economic situation. Despite the recent focus on the interconnection between health and financial risk at the systemic level, the ethical conflict between concerns for potential health benefits and financial risk protection at the household level in a low-income setting is less understood. Methods Using a seven-step ethical analysis, we examine a real-life dilemma faced by families and health workers at the micro level in Ethiopia and analyse the (...) acceptability of limiting treatment for an ill newborn to protect against financial risk. We assess available evidence and ethical issues at stake and discuss the dilemma with respect to three priority setting criteria: health maximisation, priority to the worse-off and financial risk protection. Results Giving priority to health maximisation and extra priority to the worse-off suggests, in this particular case, that limiting treatment is not acceptable even if the total well-being gain from reduced financial risk is taken into account. Our conclusion depends on the facts of the case and the relative weight assigned to these criteria. However, there are problematic aspects with the premise of this dilemma. The most affected parties—the newborn, family members and health worker—cannot make free choices about whether to limit treatment or not, and we thereby accept deprivations of people’s substantive freedoms. Conclusion In settings where healthcare is financed largely out-of-pocket, families and health workers face tragic trade-offs. As countries move towards universal health coverage, financial risk protection for high-priority services is necessary to promote fairness, improve health and reduce poverty. (shrink)
Progress towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) requires making difficult trade-offs. In this journal, Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO Director-General, has endorsed the principles for making such decisions put forward by the WHO Consultative Group on Equity and UHC. These principles include maximizing population health, priority for the worse off, and shielding people from health-related financial risks. But how should one apply these principles in particular cases and how should one adjudicate between them when their demands conflict? This paper by some (...) members of the Consultative Group and a diverse group of health policy professionals addresses these questions. It considers three stylized versions of actual policy dilemmas. Each of these cases pertains to one of the three principal dimensions of progress towards UHC: which services to cover first, which populations to prioritize for coverage, and how to move from out-of-pocket expenditures to pre-payment with pooling of funds. Our cases are simplified to highlight common trade-offs. While we make specific recommendations, our primary aim is to demonstrate both the form and substance of the reasoning involved in striking a fair balance between competing interests on the road to UHC. (shrink)
Background In the context of limited health care budgets in countries where Neglected Tropical Diseases are endemic, scaling up disease control interventions entails the setting of priorities. However, solutions based solely on cost-effectiveness analyses may lead to biased and insufficiently justified priorities. Objectives The objectives of this paper are to 1) demonstrate how a range of equity concerns can be used to identify feasible priority setting criteria, 2) show how these criteria can be fed into a multi-criteria decision-making matrix, and (...) 3) discuss the conditions under which this decision-making procedure should be carried out in a real-world decision-making context. Methods This paper draws on elements from theories of decision analysis and ethical theories of fair resource allocation. We explore six typical NTD interventions by employing a modified multi-criteria decision analysis model with predefined criteria, drawn from a priority setting guide under development by the WHO. To identify relevant evidence for the six chosen interventions, we searched the PubMed and Cochrane databases. Discussion Our in vitro multi-criteria decision analysis suggested that case management for visceral leishmaniasis should be given a higher priority than mass campaigns to prevent soil-transmitted helminthic infections. This seems to contradict current health care priorities and recommendations in the literature. We also consider procedural conditions that should be met in a contextualised decision-making process and we stress the limitations of this study exercise. Conclusion By exploring how several criteria relevant to the multi-facetted characteristics of NTDs can be taken into account simultaneously, we are able to suggest how improved priority settings among NTDs can be realised. (shrink)
This paper presents the Norwegian national health care system and the manner in which the problems of rationing and pluralism of values create new ethical and political challenges. The paper concludes with some doubts about the feasibility of the transformation taking place within this kind of health care system, with special reference to governmental control and consumer preference. Keywords: national health care, pluralism, rationing, two-tier system CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this?
La cobertura universal de salud está en el centro de la acción actual para fortalecer los sistemas de salud y mejorar el nivel y la distribución de la salud y los servicios de salud. Este documento es el informe fi nal del Grupo Consultivo de la OMS sobre la Equidad y Cobertura Universal de Salud. Aquí se abordan los temas clave de la justicia (fairness) y la equidad que surgen en el camino hacia la cobertura universal de salud. Por lo (...) tanto, el informe es pertinente para cada agente que infl uye en ese camino y en particular para los gobiernos, ya que se encargan de supervisar y guiar el progreso hacia la cobertura universal de salud. (shrink)
ABSTRACTBackground: Studies from Western countries show that doctors working in neonatal intensive care units find withdrawal of treatment to be their most difficult ethical dilemma. There is less knowledge of how this is experienced in other economic, cultural, religious and educational contexts.Objectives: To explore and describe how Indian doctors experience ethical dilemmas concerning the withdrawal of treatment among critically sick and/or premature neonates.Method: Qualitative data from interviews was analysed according to Giorgi's phenomenological approach. The subjects were 14 doctors with various (...) levels of neonatal experience, recruited from two state‐owned NICUs in India. Main outcome measures: description reflecting the nature of ethical dilemmas and how they are experienced.Results: All doctors reported situations where the question of withdrawal of treatment was experienced as the worst part of their job. They felt that they lacked training in how to handle such dilemmas, and some had never talked about ethics before. They were especially concerned about non‐medical considerations that do not feature in current treatment guidelines. In describing their personal experiences, the informants mentioned their sense of responsibility in situations where they were aware that their decisions would influence a family's economy and reputation, availability of food and education for siblings, other children's access to equipment in the unit, and the use of resources in an underprivileged population. Sometimes lack of resources, usually ventilators, forced them to make decisions about which babies should get the chance to live. Other reported dilemmas included difficulties co‐operating with uneducated and poor parents.Conclusion: While Western doctors seem to focus on the rights and problems of the individual child, Indian doctors tend to refer to consequences for other children, for parents and society. There is a need for further research in this field, and for the development of guidelines on how to cope with differences in resources, and how to handle different patient groups’ cultural and religious concerns. (shrink)
The moral philosopher Dan Brock has argued that equality of health outcomes “even if achievable” is problematic as a goal in its own right—because it is open to the levelling down objection. The levelling down objection to egalitarianism has received surprisingly little attention in the bioethics literature on distribution of health and healthcare and deserves more attention. This paper discusses and accepts an example given by Brock showing that prioritarianism and egalitarianism may judge distributions of health outcomes differently. We should (...) accept that levelling down is never a good thing, all things considered, but that equality often is. By discussing variants of Brock’s example, it is demonstrated that if equality, prioritarianism and aggregation are combined, as in a population-wide summary measure of health, such as the health achievement index, this combined set of principles is not open to levelling down. The paper suggests—although a more thorough investigation of the properties of the achievement index is needed—that this measure (a) is always sensitive to inequality in health, (b) is always sensitive to average health, (c) can assign priority to those with lowest health outcomes and (d) is not sensitive to levelling down. Levelling down is not an embarrassment for egalitarians if they adopt a pluralist theory that integrates fairness with goodness. Equality is not the only value egalitarians promote. But equality is so important that we should not reject it. (shrink)
Introduction Hundreds of thousands of premature neonates born in low-income countries are implicitly denied treatment each year. Studies from India show that treatment is rationed even for neonates born at 32 gestational age weeks (GAW), and multiple external factors influence treatment decisions. Is withholding of life-saving treatment for children born between 28 and 32 GAW acceptable from an ethical perspective? Method A seven-step impartial ethical analysis, including outcome analysis of four accepted priority criteria: severity of disease, treatment effect, cost effectiveness (...) and evidence for neonates born at 28 and 32 GAW. Results The ethical analysis sketches out two possibilities: (a) It is not ethically permissible to limit treatment to neonates below 32 GAW when assigning high weight to health maximisation and overall health equality. Neonates below 32 GAW score high on severity of disease and efficiency and cost-effectiveness of treatment if one gives full weight to early years of a newborn life. It is in the child's best interest to be treated. (b) It can be considered ethically permissible if high weight is assigned to reducing inequality of welfare and maximising overall welfare and/or not granting full weight to early years of newborns is considered acceptable. From an equity-motivated health and welfare perspective, we would not accept (b), as it relies on accepting the lack of proper welfare policies for the poor and disabled in India. Conclusion Explicit priority processes in India for financing neonatal care are needed. If premature neonates are perceived as worth less than other patient groups, the reasons should be explored among a broad range of stakeholders. (shrink)
Objective: To provide an ethical analysis of whether the Ethiopian and Tanzanian national HIV/AIDS treatment guidelines can be considered legitimate and fair rationing tools.Method: Qualitative study and ethical analysis involving guideline documents and interviews with nine key members involved in the development of the guidelines. The analysis followed an editing organising style. The theoretical framework was a guideline-specific framework based on theories of just resource allocation in healthcare and conditions that ensure fair processes in guideline development. According to this framework, (...) legitimate rationing requires reasons for patient selection to be explicit, public and relevant, and decisions must be open to question and revision.Results: The only explicit rationing criteria that both guidelines recommended were clinical antiretroviral treatment indications. Explicit non-clinical rationing criteria were expressed in a separate Ethiopian implementation guideline. Neither of the guideline development processes fully satisfies minimal requirements of procedural fairness. There is a lack of transparency. The reasons for decisions are rarely given and are not publicly available. This reduces the opportunity for public questioning, debate and revisions. The guidelines were based on expert opinion and consensus. Recommendations from the WHO were copied without much discussion, disagreement or adjustment.Conclusions: The two national HIV treatment guidelines discussed are de facto mechanisms for rationing but were developed using methods that do not fully satisfy the requirements of fair processes. (shrink)
Genomics provides information on genetic susceptibility to diseases and new possibilities for interventions which can fundamentally alter the design of fair health policies. The aim of this paper is to explore implications of genomics from the perspective of equal opportunity ethics. The ideal of equal opportunity requires that individuals are held responsible for some, but not all, factors that affect their health. Informational problems, however, often make it difficult to implement the ideal of equal opportunity in the context of healthcare. (...) In this paper, examples are considered of how new genetic information may affect the way individual responsibility for choice is assigned. It is also argued that genomics may result in relocation of the responsibility cut by providing both new information and new technology. Finally, how genomics may affect healthcare policies and the market for health insurance is discussed. (shrink)
This article is an attempt to evaluate the Oregon plan from the perspective of a Scandinavian national health care system. The Nordic welfare states are marked by a strong emphasis on equality. As an example of an egalitarian system we present the Norwegian health care model in part one. In part two, the arguments in favor of a one tier system in Norway are presented and compared to Oregon's two tier system. Although we argue, in part three, that a comparison (...) of the degree of explicitness in the prioritization process shows that Norway has much to learn from Oregon, we do believe that the Norwegian system has some attractive elements that may function as an important corrective. In part four we present the Norwegian Guidelines for priority-setting and discuss the weight assigned to the severity of disease criterion. It is argued that the exclusion of information about the severity of disease partly explains the counterintuitive ranking of treatment-condition pairs in Oregon's initial method based on the principle of health maximization. A normative analysis of the conflicting norms of efficiency and equality of results is called for. The final part of the paper is devoted to the problem of rigidity. Henry J. Aaron has argued that the Oregon system is insensitive to inter-individual variations within each diagnosis-treatment pair. This objection is a severe one, since the system might end up treating patients unfairly on the individual level. To overcome this problem, we suggest a selection rule that should be more capable of dealing with the problem of rigidity. (shrink)
It is a central political goal to secure disabled individuals the same opportunities as others to pursue their conception of a good life. This goal reflects an ambition to combine an egalitarian and a liberal moral intuition. In this article, we analyse how disabled individuals who take part in economic activity should be compensated in order to respect these two intuitions. The article asks how a system of disability compensation should be structured and what the level of such compensation should (...) be. It also analyses how the answers to these questions depend on whether the disabled individuals are held responsible for their choice of work effort. (shrink)
The aims of the paper are (i) to introduce a framework for reasoning about equity in health distribution before and after interventions, and (ii) to assess various Gini measures applied to healthy life expectancy against explicit normative concerns. Part 1 discusses different ways of measuring pure health inequality and suggests that a modified Gini measure could be used to measure inequity in health before and after treatment. Part 2 introduces a framework for reasoning about distributions of health. Part 3 discusses (...) three normative concerns that any acceptable measure of inequity should satisfy. Part 4 describes the standard Gini measure for measuring pure inequalities in healthy life expectancy. It also examines Wagstaff's Extended Gini measure of health inequity and discusses how it can be used to make priority weights to the worst off explicit. The final section expresses some programmatic worries and possible applications. It is argued that the impact of interventions should be evaluated both in terms of reduced inequity (as measured by the Extended Gini or the Extended Proportional Gini) and improved efficiency (measured by gains in average healthy life expectancy). Measurement of pure health inequity could supplement cost-effectiveness analysis as a basis for fair priority setting. (shrink)
Unhealthy lifestyle contributes significantly to the burden of disease. Scarce medical resources that could alternatively be spent on interventions to prevent or cure sufferings for which no one is to blame, are spent on prevention or treatment of disease that could be avoided through individual lifestyle changes. This may encourage policy makers and health care professionals to opt for a criterion of individual responsibility for medical suffering when setting priorities. The following article asks whether responsibility-based reasoning should be accepted as (...) relevant for fair and legitimate healthcare rationing. The luck-egalitarian argument that inequalities in health expectancies that derive from unchosen features of people’s circumstances are unjust and should be compensated, while inequalities that reflect personal choices of lifestyle may not, is discussed. It seems that while a backward-looking interpretation of individual responsibility cannot be relevant as a criterion of priority setting, a forward-looking conception of responsibility may be approved.Within all modern societies healthcare authorities are facing difficult priority setting problems. Various criteria for rationing medical intervention have been proposed due to scarcity of resources. Until now, individual responsibility for medical suffering has been given little attention in the public or in academic debate. This is about to change. As Alexander Cappelen and Ole Norheim have pointed out in a recent article in this journal, unhealthy lifestyle contributes increasingly to the burden of disease. A better understanding of the responsibility argument is important for the assessment of policies aimed at meeting this challenge.1 In this article the following question is addressed: should responsibility-based arguments be accepted as relevant to meeting healthcare rationing fairly and legitimately? I will argue that while a backward-looking conception of individual responsibility should not be endorsed, a forward-looking notion of responsibility may be approved. (shrink)
We analyse three moral dilemmas involving resource allocation in care for HIV-positive patients. Ole Norheim and Kjell Arne Johansson have argued that these cases reveal a tension between egalitarian concerns and concerns for better population health. We argue, by contrast, that these cases reveal a tension between, on the one hand, a concern for equal *chances*, and, on the other hand, both a concern for better health and an egalitarian concern for equal *outcomes*. We conclude that, in these cases, (...) there is much less tension than Norheim and Johansson claim between egalitarian concerns and concerns for better population health. (shrink)
Wilhelm Dilthey: Selected Works, Volume II: Understanding the Human World. Edited with Introduction by Rudolf A. Makkreel and Frithjof Rodi Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 471-474 DOI 10.1007/s10746-011-9197-6 Authors Eric S. Nelson, Department of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, MA, USA Journal Human Studies Online ISSN 1572-851X Print ISSN 0163-8548 Journal Volume Volume 34 Journal Issue Volume 34, Number 4.
[Book Review] Rudolf Makkreel and Frithjof Rodi, eds. Wilhelm Dilthey. Selected Works vol. III: The Formation of the Historical World in the Human Sciences. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002.
This volume is based on papers presented at a conference on defeasibility in ethics, epistemology, law, and logic that took place at the Goethe University in Frankfurt in 2010. The subtitle (“Knowledge, Agency, Responsibility, and the Law”) better reflects the content than does the title of the original conference. None of the papers focuses directly or primarily on defeasible reasoning in logic, though a few touch on this indirectly. Nor are the papers evenly split among the topics. Six are primarily (...) about epistemology, four about responsibility, and one each focuses on agency and the law. (shrink)