BMC Medical Ethics 19 (1):75 (2018)

In most socialised health systems there are formal processes that manage resource scarcity and determine the allocation of funds to health services in accordance with their priority. In this analysis, part of a larger qualitative study examining the ethical issues entailed in doctors’ participation as technical experts in priority setting, we describe the values and ethical commitments of doctors who engage in priority setting and make an empirically derived contribution towards the identification of an ethical framework for doctors’ macroallocation work. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 20 doctors, each of whom participated in macroallocation at one or more levels of the Australian health system. Our sampling, data-collection, and analysis strategies were closely modelled on grounded moral analysis, an iterative empirical bioethics methodology that employs contemporaneous interchange between the ethical and empirical to support normative claims grounded in practice. The values held in common by the doctors in our sample related to the domains of personal ethics, justice, and practices of argumentation. Applying the principles of grounded moral analysis, we identified that our participants’ ideas of the good in macroallocation and their normative insights into the practice were strongly aligned with the three levels of Paul Ricoeur’s ‘little ethics’: ‘aiming at the “good life” lived with and for others in just institutions’. Our findings suggest new ways of understanding how doctors’ values might have procedural and substantive impacts on macroallocation, and challenge the prevailing assumption that doctors in this milieu are motivated primarily by deontological considerations. Our empirical bioethics approach enabled us to identify an ethical framework for medical work in macroallocation that was grounded in the values and ethical intuitions of doctors engaged in actions of distributive justice. The concordance between Ricoeur’s ‘little ethics’ and macroallocation practitioners’ experiences, and its embrace of mutuality, suggest that it has the potential to guide practice, support ethical reflection, and harmonise deliberative practices amongst actors in macroallocation generally.
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DOI 10.1186/s12910-018-0314-1
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Oneself as Another.Paul Ricoeur - 1992 - University of Chicago Press.
Toward Methodological Innovation in Empirical Ethics Research.Michael Dunn, Mark Sheehan, Tony Hope & Michael Parker - 2012 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 21 (4):466-480.

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