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How economics could extend the scope of ethical discourse

Williams, A. (2001) How economics could extend the scope of ethical discourse. Journal of Medical Ethics. pp. 251-255. ISSN 0306-6800

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Ethical discourse is typically inconclusive, and with good reason. But this inconclusiveness is a distinct disadvantage when it comes to helping publicly accountable policy-makers in the health care system provide an ethical justification for their decisions. It is suggested that instead of ending with platitudinous statements such as that a balance has to be struck between the rival ethical considerations, empirical research should be undertaken to elicit the quantitative trade-offs that the affected general public would be prepared to accept when striking this balance. In the expected absence of any consensus, it is further suggested that the views of the median person be taken as the best approximation to the group view. Finally it is argued that, far from this quantitative approach lacking humanity by treating individuals as “mere statistics”, it shows greater compassion than the proponents of those approaches whose fellow feeling can only be stirred by information pertaining to identified individuals.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 2001 the Journal of Medical Ethics
Institution: The University of York
Academic Units: The University of York > Centre for Health Economics (York)
Depositing User: Repository Officer
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2004
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2016 00:17
Status: Published
Refereed: Yes
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/199

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