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Rationing: Health Care as a Social Good


Providing quality health care for every person who requires it may be a part of the ideal society system. However, this is currently the utopia, as the government cannot adjust the budget in a way to satisfy everyone’s medical needs. The financing is scarce, yet much of it is spent on cases that could be prevented. It creates the ethical issue of whether the money should be distributed in a way it is done nowadays. Although it may seem like a good idea to distinguish between people who became ill due to factors dependable on them or not, it is much more complex in reality and interferes directly with the concept of health care as a social value.

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Rationing Care

When resources are limited, the government might choose to enforce measures for selecting groups of priority. Regarding health care, this could be implemented in the form of determining whether an individual’s behavior has been a reason for an illness. If a particular medical state is caused by a patient’s choice, this will potentially become a reason for the treatment objection. Doctors may analyze patients’ daily practices and decide on whether they deserve to be treated. For instance, if people drink too much alcohol, they are most likely to acquire problems with liver, kidneys, and a range of other body organs. Most of the population realizes that alcohol has the adverse effect on the organism, yet many choose to drink it occasionally since it is a part of the social culture, and some people become addicted to it. The choice to consume alcoholic beverages could automatically imply that a person is taking on all the risks bound to this habit, and doctors could put him or her on the list of individuals not receiving governmental funds for treatment in the future.

However, it is usually far harder to determine the extent of the personal responsibility in each case, especially if it implies the differences in treatment (Fleck, 2012, p. 5). Taken the example given above, it is not always clear why people develop the alcohol addiction. It might be the effect of their environment, in which case it is no or little personal responsibility should be carried. Methods for revealing the reasoning for illness by doctors remains an open question.

Health Care as a Social Good

Many citizens believe that health and dental care belong to the group of social goods that must be accessible to everyone despite their financial status. If the government guarantees rights like the ability to work and get an education, there should not be an obstacle for receiving adequate medical treatment. If this is true, the country’s officials must address the allocation of resources to ensure this step (Elfenbein, Miller, & Milakovich, 1994, p. 3). For instance, the government must decide on whether to spend more on the senior generation or children. While there are currently the attempts to find the solution, the answer might call for the change of the whole economic system. Countries with socialistic model provide health care to everyone, yet it often results in the poor quality and long waiting time for treatment.


In the situation of limited financing of the health care field, the issue of the resource allocation is pressuring. While treatment should be guaranteed to everyone, the method of deciding who deserves to be cured the most does not seem viable. The possible answer to this issue could require the change to the entire economic system of the country.


Elfenbein, P., Miller, J. B., & Milakovich, M. (1994). Medical resource allocation: Rational and ethical considerations, Part I. Physician Executive, 20(2), 3-8.

Fleck, L. M. (2012). Whoopie pies, supersized fries: Just snacking? Just desserts? Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 21(1), 5-19.

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