Commodifying the polyvalent good of health care

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 24 (3):207 – 223 (1999)
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This essay serves as an introduction to this issue of the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy on commodification and health care. The essay attempts to sharpen the articulation of generally expressed worries about the commodification of health care. It does so by defining commodification, analyzing three components of the good of health care, and attempting to assess how commodification might distort the shape of each of those components. Next, it explores how the good of health care might be distorted by the market-based principle of distributive justice, "to each according to ability to pay." Finally, it identifies two basic questions about the relationship of medicine and the market that merit further exploration. How does the market-based language of "incentives" so pervasive in the world of managed care distort the complex patterns of virtue and vice that motivate actors in the health care arena? If we recognize that we cannot eliminate the influence of money from the health care system, how can we insure that the good of health care remains, in Radin's terms, "incompletely commodified"?



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