The current UK policy for the distribution of scarce vaccination in an influenza pandemic is ethically dubious. It is based on the planned outcome of the maximum health benefit in terms of the saving of lives and the reduction of illness. To that end, the population is classified in terms of particular priority groups. An alternative policy with a non-consequentialist rationale is proposed in the present work. The state should give the vaccination, in the first instance, to those who are at risk of catching the pandemic flu in the line of their duties of public employment. Thereafter, if there is not sufficient vaccine to give all citizens equally an effective dose, the state should give all citizens an equal chance of receiving an effective dose. This would be the just thing to do because the state has a duty to treat each and all of its citizens impartially and they have a corresponding right to such impartial treatment. Although this article specifically refers to the UK, it is considered that the suggested alternative policy would be applicable generally. The duty to act justly is not merely a local one.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This essay seeks to characterise the essential features of an equitable health care system in terms of the classical Aristotelian concepts of horizontal and vertical equity, the common (but ill-defined) language of "need" and the economic notion of cost-effectiveness as a prelude to identifying some of the more important issues of value that policy-makers will have to decide for themselves; the characteristics of health (and what determines it) that can cause policy to be ineffective (or have undesired consequences); the information base that is required to support a policy directed at securing greater equity, and the kinds of research (theoretical and empirical) that are needed to underpin such a policy.
Journal of Medical Ethics 09/2001; 27(4):275-83. DOI:10.1136/jme.27.4.275 · 1.51 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The nature and significance of equity and equality in relation to health and healthcare policy is discussed in the light of a recent article by Culyer. Culyer makes the following claims: (a) the importance of equity in relation to the provision of health care derives from the human need for health in order to flourish; and (b) for the sake of equity, equality of health among the members of particular political jurisdictions should be the aim of health policy. Both these claims are challenged in this paper. The argument put forward is that it is only when needs arise and are met in particular contexts that need and equity are fused. The state and its agents and agencies should distribute what it distributes impartially, whatever it distributes. Whether or not equity applies to the distribution of healthcare services depends on how they are provided and not on their nature as "primary goods". Contrary to what Culyer suggests, a policy of trying to produce the outcome of health equality would be inequitable. It would not be impartial and it would fail to treat persons as persons ought to be treated.
Journal of Medical Ethics 08/2005; 31(7):379-82. DOI:10.1136/jme.2004.009829 · 1.51 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This article discusses some ethical principles for distributing pandemic influenza vaccine and other indivisible goods. I argue that a number of principles for distributing pandemic influenza vaccine recently adopted by several national governments are morally unacceptable because they put too much emphasis on utilitarian considerations, such as the ability of the individual to contribute to society. Instead, it would be better to distribute vaccine by setting up a lottery. The argument for this view is based on a purely consequentialist account of morality; i.e. an action is right if and only if its outcome is optimal. However, unlike utilitarians I do not believe that alternatives should be ranked strictly according to the amount of happiness or preference satisfaction they bring about. Even a mere chance to get some vaccine matters morally, even if it is never realized.
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