Four ethical values — maximizing benefits, treating equally, promoting and rewarding instrumental value, and giving priority to the worst off — yield six specific recommendations for allocating medical resources in the Covid-19 pandemic: maximize benefits; prioritize health workers; do not allocate on a first-come, first-served basis; be responsive to evidence; recognize research participation; and apply the same principles to all Covid-19 and non–Covid-19 patients.
Allocation of very scarce medical interventions such as organs and vaccines is a persistent ethical challenge. We evaluate eight simple allocation principles that can be classiﬁed into four categories: treating people equally, favouring the worst-oﬀ, maximising total beneﬁts, and promoting and rewarding social usefulness. No single principle is suﬃcient to incorporate all morally relevant considerations and therefore individual principles must be combined into multiprinciple allocation systems. We evaluate three systems: the United Network for Organ Sharing points systems, quality-adjusted life-years, and (...) disability-adjusted life-years. We recommend an alternative system—the complete lives system—which prioritises younger people who have not yet lived a complete life, and also incorporates prognosis, save the most lives, lottery, and instrumental value principles. (shrink)
Initial vaccine allocations for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) will be limited. It is crucial to assess the ethical values associated with different methods of allocation, as well as important scientific and practical questions. This Viewpoint identifies three ethical values, benefiting people and limiting harm; prioritizing disadvantaged populations; and equal concern for all. It then explains why these values support prioritizing three groups: health care workers; other essential workers and people in high-transmission settings; and people with medical vulnerabilities associated with (...) poorer COVID-19 outcomes. In contrast, two other groups, people over 65 without medical vulnerabilities and participants in clinical research, present more complex ethical questions. This prioritization also encompasses valuing direct benefits to vaccinated individuals, indirect benefits to individuals protected from spread of infection, and indirect health and socioeconomic benefits to those protected from harm as health system and societal functioning improve. Vaccine allocation that recognizes important ethical values and avoids arbitrariness, waste, and corruption can ensure that the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine is both fair and perceived as fair. (shrink)
In this article, we propose the Fair Priority Model for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and emphasize three fundamental values we believe should be considered when distributing a COVID-19 vaccine among countries: Benefiting people and limiting harm, prioritizing the disadvantaged, and equal moral concern for all individuals. The Priority Model addresses these values by focusing on mitigating three types of harms caused by COVID-19: death and permanent organ damage, indirect health consequences, such as health care system strain and stress, as well as (...) economic destruction. It proposes proceeding in three phases: the first addresses premature death, the second long-term health issues and economic harms, and the third aims to contain viral transmission fully and restore pre-pandemic activity. -/- To those who may deem an ethical framework irrelevant because of the belief that many countries will pursue "vaccine nationalism," we argue such a framework still has broad relevance. Reasonable national partiality would permit countries to focus on vaccine distribution within their borders up until the rate of transmission is below 1, at which point there would not be sufficient vaccine-preventable harm to justify retaining a vaccine. When a government reaches the limit of national partiality, it should release vaccines for other countries. -/- We also argue against two other recent proposals. Distributing a vaccine proportional to a country's population mistakenly assumes that equality requires treating differently situated countries identically. Prioritizing countries according to the number of front-line health care workers, the proportion of the population over 65, and the number of people with comorbidities within each country may exacerbate disadvantage and end up giving the vaccine in large part to wealthy nations. (shrink)
We propose six guideposts that states and hospitals should follow to respect disability rights when designing policies for the allocation of scarce, lifesaving medical treatments. Four relate to criteria for decisions. First, do not use categorical exclusions, especially ones based on disability or diagnosis. Second, do not use perceived quality of life. Third, use hospital survival and near-term prognosis (e.g., death expected within a few years despite treatment) but not long-term life expectancy. Fourth, when patients who use ventilators in their (...) daily lives (e.g., home ventilation) present to acute care hospitals, their personal ventilators should not be reallocated to other patients. Fifth, designate triage officers to assess patients individually on the basis of objective medical evidence, not stereotypes or assumptions. Sixth, include disability rights advocates in policy development and dissemination. (shrink)
Health policy is only one part of social policy. Although spending administered by the health sector constitutes a sizeable fraction of total state spending in most countries, other sectors such as education and transportation also represent major portions of national budgets. Additionally, though health is one important aspect of economic and social activity, people pursue many other goals in their social and economic lives. Similarly, direct benefits—those that are immediate results of health policy choices—are only a small portion of the (...) overall impact of health policy. This chapter considers what weight health policy should give to its “spill-over effects,” namely non-health and indirect benefits. (shrink)
This article proposes a novel strategy, one that draws on insights from antidiscrimination law, for addressing a persistent challenge in medical ethics and the philosophy of disability: whether health systems can consider quality of life without unjustly discriminating against individuals with disabilities. It argues that rather than uniformly considering or ignoring quality of life, health systems should take a more nuanced approach. Under the article's proposal, health systems should treat cases where quality of life suffers because of disability-focused exclusion or (...) injustice differently from cases where lower quality of life results from laws of nature, resource scarcity, or appropriate tradeoffs. Decisionmakers should ignore quality-of-life losses that result from injustice or exclusion when ignoring them would improve the prospects of individuals with disabilities; in contrast, they should consider quality-of-life losses that are unavoidable or stem from resource scarcity or permissible tradeoffs. On this proposal, while health systems should not amplify existing injustice against individuals with disabilities, they are not required to altogether ignore the potential effects of disability on quality of life. (shrink)
This paper takes a novel approach to the active bioethical debate over whether advance medical directives have moral authority in dementia cases. Many have assumed that advance directives would lack moral authority if dementia truly produced a complete discontinuity in personal identity, such that the predementia individual is a separate individual from the postdementia individual. I argue that even if dementia were to undermine personal identity, the continuity of the body and the predementia individual’s rights over that body can support (...) the moral authority of advance directives. I propose that the predementia individual retains posthumous rights over her body that she acquired through historical embodiment in that body, and further argue that claims grounded in historical embodiment can sometimes override or exclude moral claims grounded in current embodiment. I close by considering how advance directives grounded in historical embodiment might be employed in practice and what they would and would not justify. (shrink)
This chapter discusses how justice applies to public health. It begins by outlining three different metrics employed in discussions of justice: resources, capabilities, and welfare. It then discusses different accounts of justice in distribution, reviewing utilitarianism, egalitarianism, prioritarianism, and sufficientarianism, as well as desert-based theories, and applies these distributive approaches to public health examples. Next, it examines the interplay between distributive justice and individual rights, such as religious rights, property rights, and rights against discrimination, by discussing examples such as mandatory (...) treatment and screening. The chapter also examines the nexus between public health and debates concerning whose interests matter to justice (the “scope of justice”), including global justice, intergenerational justice, and environmental justice, as well as debates concerning whether justice applies to individual choices or only to institutional structures (the “site of justice”). The chapter closes with a discussion of strategies, including deliberative and aggregative democracy, for adjudicating disagreements about justice. (shrink)
Current challenges in medical practice, research, and administration demand physicians who are familiar with bioethics, health law, and health economics. Curriculum directors at American Association of Medical Colleges-affiliated medical schools were sent confidential surveys requesting the number of required hours of the above subjects and the years in which they were taught, as well as instructor names. The number of relevant publications since 1990 for each named instructor was assessed by a PubMed search.In sum, teaching in all three subjects combined (...) comprises less than two percent of the total hours in the American medical curriculum, and most instructors have not recently published articles in the fields they teach. This suggests that medical schools should reevaluate their curricula and instructors in bioethics, health law, and health economics. (shrink)
Several quantitative surveys have been conducted internationally to gather empirical information about physicians’ general attitudes towards health care rationing. Are physicians ready to accept and implement rationing, or are they rather reluctant? Do they prefer implicit bedside rationing that allows the physician–patient relationship broad leeway in individual decisions? Or do physicians prefer strategies that apply explicit criteria and rules?
Certifications of immunity are sometimes called “immunity passports” but are better conceptualized as immunity-based licenses. Such policies raise important questions about fairness, stigma, and counterproductive incentives but could also further individual freedom and improve public health. Immunity licenses should not be evaluated against a baseline of normalcy, ie, uninfected free movement. Rather, they should be compared to the alternatives of enforcing strict public health restrictions for many months or permitting activities that could spread infection, both of which exacerbate inequalities and (...) impose serious burdens. This Viewpoint presents a framework for analyzing the ethics of immunity licenses. (shrink)
We consider an ethical dilemma in global health: is it ethically acceptable to provide some patients cheaper treatments that are less effective or more toxic than the treatments other patients receive? We argue that it is ethical to consider local resource constraints when deciding what interventions to provide. The provision of cheaper, less effective health care is frequently the most effective way of promoting health and realizing the ethical values of utility, equality, and priority to the worst off.
Recognizing that offers of payment to research participants can serve various purposes—reimbursement, compensation, and incentive—helps uncover differences between participants that can justify differential payment of participants within the same study. Participants with different study-related expenses will need different amounts of reimbursement to be restored to their pre-participation financial baseline. Differential compensation can be acceptable when some research participants commit more time or assume greater burdens than others, or if inter-site differences affect the value of compensation. Finally, it may be permissible (...) to offer differential incentive payments if necessary to advance a study’s goals. We encourage investigators and Institutional Review Boards to think not only about whether to offer payment, in what amounts, and for what purpose, but also to consider whether differential payment can help promote the scientific and ethical goals of clinical research. (shrink)
In this commentary, I critique three aspects of Emily Walsh's proposal to reduce the moral and legal weight of advance directives: (1) the ambiguity of its initial thesis, (2) its views about the ethics and legality of clinical practice, and (3) its interpretation and application of Ronald Dworkin’s account of advance directives and L.A. Paul's view on transformative experience. I also consider what Walsh’s proposal would mean for people facing the prospect of dementia. I conclude that our reasons to honor (...) many advance directives survive the move to a transformative experience framework. (shrink)
Household debt has been widely discussed among social scientists, policy makers, and activists. Many have questioned the levels of debt households are required to take on, and have made various proposals for assisting households in debt. Yet theorists of distributive justice have left household debt underexamined. This article offers a normative examination of the distributive justice issues presented by proposals to relieve household debt or protect households from overindebtedness. I examine two goals at which debt relief proposals aim: remedying disadvantage (...) and stabilizing expectations. I then examine strategies for relieving existing debts such as debt abolition, forgiveness, bankruptcy, and mitigation, as well as strategies that aim to prevent future indebtedness, such as public provision or financing of costly goods and credit or interest rate regulations. (shrink)
We argue that charging people to participate in research is likely to undermine the fundamental ethical bases of clinical research, especially the principles of social value, scientific validity, and fair subject selection.
Recognising that offers of payment to research participants can serve various purposes—reimbursement, compensation and incentive—helps uncover differences between participants, which can justify differential payment of participants within the same study. Participants with different study-related expenses will need different amounts of reimbursement to be restored to their preparticipation financial baseline. Differential compensation can be acceptable when some research participants commit more time or assume greater burdens than others, or if inter-site differences affect the value of compensation. Finally, it may be permissible (...) to offer differential incentive payments if necessary to advance the goals of a study. We encourage investigators and Institutional Review Boards to think about whether to offer payment, in what amounts and for what purpose, and also to consider whether differential payment can help promote the scientific and ethical goals of clinical research. (shrink)
Addressing distributive justice issues in health policy—ranging from the allocation of health system funding to the allocation of scarce COVID-19 interventions like intensive care unit beds and vaccines—involves the application of ethical principles. Should a principle of sustainability be among them? I suggest that while the value of temporal neutrality underlying such a principle is compelling, it is already implicit in the more basic principle of equal treatment. Munthe et al 1 imagine sustainability accompanying four other principles: need, prognosis, equal (...) treatment and cost-effectiveness. Some are spelled out, however, in ways that are ambiguous or incomplete. Start with need. They suggest that more resources should go to those with more need. But they do not explain what is meant by need, and conflicting definitions exist. Frances Kamm2 defines need as ‘how badly someone’s life will have gone if he is not helped’. But others define need-based distribution differently: for instance, distribution to those who are sickest right now or who will suffer harm without assistance3 4 or distribution that excludes consideration of non-medical factors.5 Kamm’s conception picks out an ethically compelling consideration, but one better described in terms of disadvantage rather than need. Two other principles are easier to understand. The prognosis principle tells us that the more an intervention promotes health, the more resource investment in that intervention is warranted. The equal treatment principle is the obverse of all other relevant principles: if two claims are equal with respect …. (shrink)
This Essay explains why model policies proposed or adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that allocate scarce medical resources by using medical evidence to pursue two core goals—saving more lives and saving more years of life—are compatible and consonant with disability law. Disability law, properly understood, permits considering medical evidence about patients’ probability of surviving treatment and the quantity of scarce treatments they will likely use. It also permits prioritizing health workers, and considering patients’ post-treatment life expectancy. These factors, (...) when based on medical evidence and not inaccurate stereotypes, are legal to consider even if they disadvantage some patients with specific disabilities. It then discusses the ethical advantages of triage policies that use medical evidence to save more lives and years of life, which I call “evidence-based triage,” focusing on the benefits of these policies for patients with disabilities. In doing so, I explain why recent critiques err by treating people with disabilities as a monolith, overlooking the political disadvantages of less-visible victims, and treating the social origins of scarcity as a justification for saving fewer lives. Evidence-based triage parallels other policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, like physical distancing and postponement of medical procedures, which may burden patients with specific disabilities or medical conditions but are nevertheless justified because they save more patients. (shrink)
Technological and societal changes have made downward social and economic mobility a pressing issue in real-world politics. This article argues that a Rawlsian society would not provide any special protection against downward mobility, and would act rightly in declining to provide such protection. Special treatment for the downwardly mobile can be grounded neither in Rawls’s core principles—the basic liberties, fair equality of opportunity, and the difference principle—nor in other aspects of Rawls’s theory. Instead, a Rawlsian society is willing to sacrifice (...) particular individuals’ ambitions and plans for the achievement of justice, and offers those who lose out from justified change no special solicitude over and above the general solicitude extended to all. Rather than guaranteeing the maintenance of any particular individual or group’s economic position, it provides all of its members—the upwardly mobile, the downwardly mobile, and the immobile—a form of security that is at once more generous and more limited: that they will receive the liberties, opportunities, and resources promised by the principles of justice. (shrink)
In the United States, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues has proposed deliberative democracy as an approach for dealing with ethical issues surrounding synthetic biology. Deliberative democracy might similarly help us as we update the regulation of human subjects research. This paper considers how the values that deliberative democratic engagement aims to realize can be realized in a human subjects research context. Deliberative democracy is characterized by an ongoing exchange of ideas between participants, and an effort to (...) justify decisions that bind participants by appeal to reasons that the participants can understand and share. Even when unanimous agreement is not reached, the active participation of everyone along with the requirement that reasons be made accessible enhances the legitimacy of the ultimate outcome. Importantly, deliberative democratic structures avoid strict hierarchies and place participants, as much as possible, in the position of equals. Human subjects research has some features that may make deliberative democratic principles seem initially unappealing. For one, there are asymmetries in knowledge between expert researchers conducting the research and participants in the research process. For another, statistical validity is made easiest by research paradigms that produce standardized, quantitative data, which can be difficult to achieve if research participants are given the power to deliberatively reshape the research design as it progresses. These and other problems have tended to produce a human subjects research process where subjects do not actively participate in shaping research, but rather consent to a predefined set of interventions designed by expert researchers and vetted by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). In this paper, I suggest some ways in which human subjects research could do more to realize deliberative democratic values, and, in particular, how a revised Common Rule might help to realize these values. First, research participants could be treated not as passive subjects but instead involved in research design, ethical review, and the ongoing conduct and dissemination of research. Such participation might involve, for instance, including people who have served as research subjects on IRBs, or replacing IRB oversight for certain forms of research exempted from IRB oversight under a revised Common Rule with oversight by a body of community members or research subjects. It might also involve having the oversight of research that uses more participatory models be more participatory and less hierarchical in nature. I also raise questions about the exemption of research on public benefit programs from any research-level oversight and from consent requirements. While IRBs are likely not the correct overseers, there may be good reason to view such research with a critical eye, because of its potential for long-range impacts on the lives of participants. By giving research subjects a greater voice in research that aims at fine-tuning public benefit programs on which subjects rely, a deliberative oversight process has the potential to recast research participation as a form of active democratic participation and to address a “democratic deficit” in public health. Numerous proposals regarding health care have called for greater participation by laypeople and a more nonhierarchical approach to setting health priorities. Involving lay research subjects in the conduct of public benefits research and other forms of public health research may help to further these goals. (shrink)
In this short response to Kerstein and Bognar, we clarify three aspects of the complete lives system, which we propose as a system of allocating scarce medical interventions. We argue that the complete lives system provides meaningful guidance even though it does not provide an algorithm. We also defend the investment modification to the complete lives system, which prioritizes adolescents and older children over younger children; argue that sickest-first allocation remains flawed when scarcity is absolute and ongoing; and argue that (...) Kerstein and Bognar are mistaken to base their allocation principles on differences in personhood. (shrink)
Our Viewpoint argues that expanding access to less effective or more toxic treatments is supported not only by utilitarian ethical reasoning but also by two other ethical frameworks: those that emphasise equality and those that emphasise giving priority to the patients who are worst off. The inadequate resources available for global health reflect not only natural constraints but also unwise social and political choices. However, pitting efforts to reduce inequality and better fund global health against efforts to put available resources (...) to their best use mistakes complementary objectives for conflicting ones. (shrink)
Recent events have revived questions about the circumstances that ought to trigger therapists' duty to warn or protect. There is extensive interstate variation in duty to warn or protect statutes enacted and rulings made in the wake of the California Tarasoff ruling. These duties may be codified in legislative statutes, established in common law through court rulings, or remain unspecified. Furthermore, the duty to warn or protect is not only variable between states but also has been dynamic across time. In (...) this article, we review the implications of this variability and dynamism, focusing on three sets of questions: first, what legal and ethics-related challenges do therapists in each of the three broad categories of states (states that mandate therapists to warn or protect, states that permit therapists to breach confidentiality for warnings but have no mandate, and states that give no guidance) face in handling threats of violence? Second, what training do therapists and other professionals involved in handling violent threats receive, and is this training adequate for the task that these professionals are charged with? Third, how have recent court cases changed the scope of the duty? We conclude by pointing to gaps in the empirical and conceptual scholarship surrounding the duty to warn or protect. (shrink)
This article examines a fundamental question of justice in global health. Is it ethically preferable to provide a larger number of people with cheaper treatments that are less effective (or more toxic), or to restrict treatments to a smaller group to provide a more expensive but more effective or less toxic alternative? We argue that choosing to provide less effective or more toxic interventions to a larger number of people is favored by the principles of utility, equality, and priority for (...) those worst-off. Advocates are mistaken to demand that medical care provided in low-income and middle-income countries should be the same as in high-income countries. (shrink)
In this open peer commentary, we categorize the possible “neuroscience in national security” definitions of misuse of science and identify which, if any, are uniquely presented by advances in neuroscience. To define misuse, we first define what we would consider appropriate use: the application of reasonably safe and effective technology, based on valid and reliable scientific research, to serve a legitimate end. This definition presents distinct opportunities for assessing misuse: misuse is the application of invalid or unreliable science, or is (...) the use of reliable scientific methods to serve illegitimate ends. Ultimately, we conclude that while national security is often a politicized issue, assessing the state of scientific progress should not be. (shrink)
Recent work in the behavioral sciences asserts that we are subject to a variety of cognitive biases. For example, we mourn losses more than we prize equivalently sized gains; we are more inclined to believe something if it matches our previous beliefs; and we even relate more warmly or coldly to others depending on whether the coffee cup we are holding is warm or cold. Drawing on this work, case law and legal scholarship have asserted that we have reason to (...) select legal norms, or revise existing norms, so as to eliminate the influence of these and other cognitive biases. -/- In this Article, I critically evaluate whether and when this reaction is warranted. I begin by contrasting predominantly descriptive definitions of bias, on which bias is merely deviation from a predictive model, with prescriptive definition of bias, on which biased conduct is conduct that actors ought not do. I then similarly contrast the behavioral-scientific concepts of statistical significance and effect size with the concept of significance required to justify legal conclusions. -/- With this apparatus in place, I go on to consider a variety of examples where legal commentators and decisionmakers have worried about the effects of cognitive bias on law. I argue that many of these cognitive biases (for example, our aversion to losses), while reflecting deviations from behavioral scientists’ models of human behavior, are not normatively objectionable and so give us no reason to revise our legal norms to eliminate their effect. Others (e.g., the effect of judges’ hunger on their decisionmaking), however, constitute biases under both descriptive and prescriptive definitions and therefore give us good reason to revise our legal norms. -/- I conclude by contrasting my conclusion — that evaluation of cognitive biases’ legal significance must explicitly evaluate the normative arguments for and against the model of decisionmaking in question on a case-by-case basis — with the arguments of influential scientists and legal commentators like Daniel Kahneman and John Mikhail, who treat cognitive heuristics and biases as more broadly desirable or objectionable. (shrink)
In this commentary, I suggest expanding the deliberative aspects of critical care policy development in two ways. First, critical-care policy development should expand the scope of deliberation by leaving fewer issues up to expertise or private choice. For instance. it should allow deliberation about the relevance of age, disability, social position, and psychological well-being to allocation decisions. Second, it should broaden both the set of costs considered and the set of stakeholders represented in the deliberative process. In particular, it should (...) consider efforts to reduce the cost of end-of-life care and to redirect resources away from the provision of costly interventions, and should expand the set of individuals included in deliberation to include stakeholders outside the health-care system. (shrink)
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) may be the most important health law statute in American history, yet much of the most prominent legal scholarship examining it has focused on the merits of the court challenges it has faced rather than delving into the details of its priority-setting provisions. In addition to providing an overview of the ACA’s provisions concerning priority setting and their developing interpretations, this Article attempts to defend three substantive propositions. First, I argue that the ACA is neither (...) uniformly hostile nor uniformly friendly to efforts to set priorities in ways that promote cost and quality. Second, I argue that the ACA does not take a single, unified approach to priority setting; rather, its guidance varies depending on the aspect of the health care system at issue (Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Medicare, essential health benefits) and the factors being excluded from priority setting (age, disability, life expectancy). Third, I argue that cost-effectiveness can be achieved within the ACA's constraints, but that doing so will require adopting new approaches to cost-effectiveness and priority setting. By limiting the use of standard cost-effectiveness analysis, the ACA makes the need for workable rivals to cost-effectiveness analysis a pressing practical concern rather than a mere theoretical worry. (shrink)
Since the Supreme Court upheld the partial birth abortion ban in 2007, more U.S. abortion providers have begun performing intraamniotic digoxin injections prior to uterine dilation and evacuations. These injections can cause medical harm to abortion patients. Our objective is to perform an in-depth bioethical analysis of this procedure, which is performed mainly for the provider’s legal benefit despite potential medical consequences for the patient.
California has focused on health equity in the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan. The Blueprint for a Safer Economy assigns each of California’s 58 counties into 1 of 4 tiers based on 2 metrics: test positivity rate and adjusted case rate. To advance to the next less-restrictive tier, counties must meet that tier’s test positivity and adjusted case rate thresholds. In addition, counties must have a plan for targeted investments within disadvantaged communities, and counties with more than 106 000 residents must (...) meet an equity metric. California's explicit incorporation of health equity into its reopening plan underscores the interrelated fate of its residents during the COVID-19 pandemic and creates incentives for action. This article evaluates the beneﬁts and challenges of this novel health equity focus, and outlines recommendations for other US states to address disparities in their reopening plans. (shrink)
In this Commentary, I propose an ethical framework for ethical discussions around the allocation of scarce resources in COVID-19 response. The framework incorporates four principles: beneficence (benefiting people by saving lives or years of life), equality, remedying disadvantage, and recognizing past conduct. I then discuss how the framework interacts with ethical constraints against using people as a mere means and against causing death. The commentary closes by criticizing the equation of deontological ethics with random or first-come, first-served allocation and of (...) allocation that aims to save more lives or years of life with utilitarianism.. (shrink)
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced clinicians, policy-makers and the public to wrestle with stark choices about who should receive potentially life-saving interventions such as ventilators, ICU beds and dialysis machines if demand overwhelms capacity. Many allocation schemes face the question of whether to consider age. We offer two underdiscussed arguments for prioritising younger patients in allocation policies, which are grounded in prudence and fairness rather than purely in maximising benefits: prioritising one’s younger self for lifesaving treatments is prudent from an (...) individual perspective, and prioritising younger patients works to narrow health disparities by giving priority to patients at risk of dying earlier in life, who are more likely to be subject to systemic disadvantage. We then identify some confusions in recent arguments against considering age. (shrink)
-/- This chapter evaluates the ethical issues that using cost-effectiveness considerations to set animal health priorities might present, and its conclusions are cautiously optimistic. While using cost-effectiveness calculations in animal health is not without ethical pitfalls, these calculations offer a pathway toward more rigorous priority-setting efforts that allow money spent on animal well-being to do more good. Although assessing quality of life for animals may be more challenging than in humans, implementing prioritization based on cost-effectiveness is less ethically fraught.
Advocates, activists, and academics have criticized pharmaceutical intellectual property ("pharma IP") rights as obstacles to access to medicines for the global poor. These criticisms of pharma IP holders are frequently exceptionalist: they focus on pharma IP holders while ignoring whether others also bear obligations to assist patients in need. These others include holders of other lucrative IP rights, such as music copyrights or technology patents; firms, such as energy companies and banks, that do not rely on IP; and wealthy private (...) individuals. Their resources could be used to aid patients by providing direct medical assistance, funding prizes or biomedical research, or purchasing pharmaceutical patents and granting rights to the disadvantaged. -/- After identifying this exceptionalism, this Article evaluates several arguments in its defense. These are that pharma IP holders are unique in (1) owning what poor patients need, (2) being in special proximity to these patients, (3) being able to assist at low cost to themselves, (4) having a professional duty to help these patients, or (5) being implicated by their past conduct in these patients' plight. It concludes that none of these arguments are compelling: while IP holders have a duty to help, this duty is not fundamentally different from the duties others owe. -/- Even though this project criticizes exceptionalism, it does not absolve pharma IP holders of duties to help the sick. Rather, it argues that spreading the costs of aiding patients in need across a greater number of market actors, via publicly funded "pull" programs like prizes and patent buyouts or "push" programs like grants, would be preferable. So would allowing pharmaceutical firms to seek contribution from others who are able to help. However, if others cannot be held to account, imposing burdens on pharma IP holders can be justified in order to promote global health: treating wealthy firms arbitrarily is preferable to ignoring the urgent needs of the global poor. (shrink)
In 2017, Americans spent over $3.4 trillion-nearly 18% of gross domestic poduct-on health care. This spending is unevenly distributed: Almost a quarter is spent on the costliest 1% of patients, and almost half on the costliest 5%. Most of these patients soon return to a lower percentile, but many continue to incur health care costs in the top percentiles year after year. This Article focuses on the challenges that persistently expensive patients present for health law and policy, and how fairly (...) dividing their medical costs among payers illuminates fundamental normative choices about the design and reform of health insurance. In doing so, this Article draws on bioethical and health policy analyses of the fair distribution of medical costs, and examines how legal doctrine shapes health systems' options for responding to expensive patients. Part I of this Article discusses two real-world examples of expensive patients and the debate surrounding them, including the case of an Iowa teenager with hemophilia whose treatments cost more than $10 million per year. Part II then examines the normative question of how the costs of treating expensive patients' medical conditions should be shared and identifies three different dimensions of sharing: (1) scope, from narrow (plan members only) to broad (all of society); (2) boundedness, whether there are limits on the costs others can be asked to bear; and (3) progressivity, whether wealthier individuals are asked to bear more costs (similar to progressivity in tax). Part III then considers how health care reform choices could advance or hamper the adoption of broad, bounded, progressive sharing, with a focus on recent state-level reinsurance programs that legal scholarship has not yet analyzed in depth. This Article contributes to the literature on health care reform in three interlocking ways. First, it develops a novel proposal for fairly sharing the cost of expensive patients' care that could usefully inform state- and federal-level policy discussions. Second, it provides a normative, rather than purely political or economic, analysis of existing and proposed options for sharing expensive patients' costs. Third, it bridges the disconnected literature on reinsurance, limit setting, and health care financing, identifying how proposals in these different areas intersect. (shrink)
Recent disputes over whether older people should pay more for health insurance, or receive lower priority for transplantable organs, highlight broader disagreements regarding the legality of using age-based criteria in health care. These debates will likely intensify given the changing age structure of the American population and the turmoil surrounding the financing of American health care. This Article provides a comprehensive examination of the legality and normative desirability of age-based criteria. I defend a distributive justice approach to age-based criteria and (...) contrast it with two prevailing theoretical approaches to age-based criteria, nondiscrimination and discretion. I propose a detailed normative framework for the use of age-based criteria in health care, the lifetime justice approach, that considers the future life patients can gain from treatment and the past years of life they already have experienced. -/- This paper is available by open access from the Boston College Law School Digital Commons. (shrink)
This essay examines the connection between socioeconomic mobility and equality, and argues for two conclusions. First, socioeconomic mobility is conceptually distinct from three common species of equality: (1) equality of opportunity, (2) equality of outcome, and (3) relational equality. Second, socioeconomic mobility is connected — in different ways — to each species of equality, and, if we value one or more of these species of equality, these connections endow mobility with derivative normative significance.
Consistent and well-designed frameworks for ethical oversight enable socially valuable research while forestalling harmful or poorly designed studies. I suggest some alterations that might strengthen the valuable checklist Rattani & Hyder propose for the ethical review of health policy and systems research (HPSR), or prompt future work in the area.
Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler's proposal that social and legal institutions should steer individuals toward some options and away from others-a stance they dub "libertarian paternalism"-has provoked much high-level discussion in both academic and policy settings. Sunstein and Thaler believe that steering, or "nudging," individuals is easier to justify than the bans or mandates that traditional paternalism involves. -/- This Article considers the connection between libertarian paternalism and the regulation of reproductive choice. I first discuss the use of nudges to (...) discourage women from exercising their right to choose an abortion, or from becoming or remaining pregnant. I then argue that reproductive choice cases illustrate the limitations of libertarian paternalism. Where choices are politicized or intimate, as reproductive choices often are, nudges become not much easier to justify than traditional mandates or prohibitions. Even beyond the context of reproductive choice, it is not obvious how much easier nudges are to justify than bans or mandates. -/- Part I of this Article briefly introduces Sunstein and Thaler's libertarian paternalism. Part II then turns to the context of reproductive choice. Part II.A reviews restrictions on the right to choose an abortion-particularly post-Casey regulations such as waiting periods, requirements that women receive certain types of information, and requirements that women undergo ultrasound-that pitch themselves as steering choice without entirely closing off the right to choose an abortion. This distinction between nudges and prohibitions echoes Sunstein and Thaler's proposals, but works to subordinate women's choices to the judgment of (often male) experts and administrators-hence my term "libertarian patriarchalism." Part II.B reviews efforts to nudge women-particularly teenagers, HIV-positive women, and others thought to be unsuitable mothers-to avoid pregnancy. -/- Part III considers the normative implications of nudging reproductive decisions. In Part III.A, I argue that the political nature of reproductive choices presents a problem for nudges. I do so by considering a parallel with voting rights. Empirical research shows that voters are more likely to choose the candidate listed first on the ballot. Yet we do not empower the administrator in charge of ballot design to choose a default rule that nudges individuals toward the candidate he sincerely believes would promote choosers' welfare. Given the political nature of reproductive choices, a policymaker's attempting to nudge reproductive decisionmaking in the direction he prefers-or indeed in any direction-fails to show adequate respect for the chooser's agency. In Part III.B, I offer an argument that targets the use of nudges in the context of pregnancy. Finally, in Part III.C, I argue that nudges do not merely add choices to an existing menu, but change the substantive choices available to individuals and thereby impose more-than-trivial costs on them. I conclude by exploring the implications of my arguments for nudges more generally. (shrink)
In this retrospective for Ethics, I discuss H.M. Oliver’s “Established Expectations and American Economic Policies.” This article, by a then-modestly-famous economist, has been ignored (no citations) since its 1940 publication. Yet it bears directly on a normative problem at the intersection of ethics and economics that challenges today’s policymakers but has received comparatively little philosophical attention: how should we balance potentially desirable institutional change against the disruption of established expectations? -/- Oliver details how the principle of fulfilling established expectations cuts (...) across political lines. Conservatives, he observes, criticized inflation for disrupting expectations, and demanded the protection of established corporations. New Deal progressives achieved “the safeguarding of the economic positions of certain important sections of the American people” (104) via statutes designed to protect income and homeownership status. And labor leaders lobbied for the preservation of occupational status. Oliver criticizes these demands on two grounds. First, they are noncompossible: they can’t simultaneously be fulfilled. Second, they are economically inefficient. He concludes that “in a modern dynamic economy, the preservation of status is not and cannot be a feasible criterion of economic justice” (107). -/- I argue that Oliver accurately recognizes both the wide endorsement and the moral ill-foundedness of fulfilling expectations. However, I criticize Oliver’s belief in the noncompossibility of expectations. The established expectations of the wealthy, middle-class homeowners and retirees, and current workers can all be maintained, but at the price of constricting the opportunities of new graduates, immigrants, and the poor—all groups yet to develop settled expectations. This insight renders the protection of expectations not merely inefficient but also unjust. (shrink)
This chapter examines how social- scientific research on public preferences bears on the ethical question of how those resources should in fact be allocated, and explain how social-scientific researchers might find an understanding of work in ethics useful as they design mechanisms for data collection and analysis. I proceed by first distinguishing the methodologies of social science and ethics. I then provide an overview of different approaches to the ethics of allocating scarce medical interventions, including an approach—the complete lives system—which (...) I have previously defended, and a brief recap of social-scientific research on the allocation of scarce medical resources. Following these overviews, I examine different ways in which public preferences could matter to the ethics of allocation. Last, I suggest some ways in which social scientists could learn from ethics as they conduct research into public preferences regarding the allocation of scarce medical resources. (shrink)
In this survey study of 4735 US adults, respondents of all demographic and political affiliations agreed with prioritizing COVID-19 vaccine access for health care workers, adults of any age with serious comorbid conditions, frontline workers (eg, teachers and grocery workers), and Black, Hispanic, Native American, and other communities that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Older adult respondents were less likely than younger respondents to list healthy people older than 65 years as 1 of their top 4 priority groups. These (...) findings suggest that the US public agrees with the high-priority groups proposed by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine but appears to disagree with approaches advanced by others that prioritize older adults but not essential workers or disproportionately affected communities. (shrink)
In this Correspondence, I argue that given that scarcity has existed both for critical care resources and for vaccines, allocating critical care resources to prioritize the prevention of early COVID-19 deaths (i.e. COVID-19 deaths among younger patients) could valuably counterbalance the disproportionate exclusion of minority patients and those with life shortening disabilities that age-based vaccine allocation produces. -/- Covid-19 deaths early in life have overwhelmingly befallen minorities and people with life-shortening disabilities. Policies preventing early deaths prevent an outcome widely recognized (...) as worse—dying earlier in one’s life rather than later—while counteracting intersecting forms of injustice. Ultimately, prohibiting the use of age as a tiebreaker in critical care allocation, as Brown et al. propose, will worsen disparities and is not mandated by law. (shrink)
This Note offers a normative critique of cost-benefit analysis, one informed by deontological moral theory, in the context of the debate over whether tort litigation or a non-tort approach is the appropriate response to mass harm. The first Part argues that the difference between lay and expert intuitions about risk and harm often reflects a difference in normative judgments about the existing facts, rather than a difference in belief about what facts exist, which makes the lay intuitions more defensible. The (...) second Part considers how tort has dealt with this divergence between lay and expert perspectives. It also evaluates how tort's approach has differed from that of public law approaches to accident law, such as legislative compensation and risk regulation by administrative agencies. Ultimately, tort's ability to recognize the value of lay intuitions supports retaining the tort perspective as part of our societal arsenal of responses to risk and harm. This ability can also support a pro-tort perspective in two practical debates in the arena of tort law: that over preemption of tort law by administrative agency judgments, and that over access to tort recovery as part of a no-fault system. (shrink)
This chapter explores two questions in detail: How should we determine the threshold for costs that individuals are asked to bear through insurance premiums or care-related out-of-pocket costs, including user fees and copayments? and What is an adequate relationship between costs and benefits? This chapter argues that preventing impoverishment is a morally more urgent priority than protecting households against income fluctuations, and that many health insurance plans may not adequately protect individuals from health care costs that threaten to drop their (...) financial status below a decent minimum. A design that places greater emphasis on preventing impoverishment and finances the achievement of that goal by reducing unnecessary subsidies to better-off households would better accord with a sufficientarian approach to health care. -/- . (shrink)
This project considers whether and how research ethics can contribute to the provision of cost-effective medical interventions. Clinical research ethics represents an underexplored context for the promotion of cost-effectiveness. In particular, although scholars have recently argued that research on less-expensive, less-effective interventions can be ethical, there has been little or no discussion of whether ethical considerations justify curtailing research on more expensive, more effective interventions. Yet considering cost-effectiveness at the research stage can help ensure that scarce resources such as tissue (...) samples or limited subject popula- tions are employed where they do the most good; can support parallel efforts by providers and insurers to promote cost-effectiveness; and can ensure that research has social value and benefits subjects. I discuss and rebut potential objections to the consideration of cost-effectiveness in research, including the difficulty of predicting effectiveness and cost at the research stage, concerns about limitations in cost-effectiveness analysis, and worries about overly limiting researchers’ freedom. I then consider the advantages and disadvantages of having certain participants in the research enterprise, including IRBs, advisory committees, sponsors, investigators, and subjects, consider cost-effectiveness. The project concludes by qualifiedly endorsing the consideration of cost-effectiveness at the research stage. While incorporating cost-effectiveness considerations into the ethical evaluation of human subjects research will not on its own ensure that the health care system realizes cost-effectiveness goals, doing so nonetheless represents an important part of a broader effort to control rising medical costs. (shrink)