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The moral relevance of personal characteristics in setting health care priorities


  • Olsen, Jan Abel
  • Richardson, Jeff
  • Dolan, Paul
  • Menzel, Paul


This paper discusses the moral relevance of accounting for various personal characteristics when prioritising between groups of patients. After a review of the results from empirical studies, we discuss the ethical reasons which might explain--and justify--the views expressed in these studies. The paper develops a general framework based upon the causes of ill health and the consequences of treatment. It then turns to the question of the extent to which a personal characteristic--and the eventual underlying ethical justification of its relevance--could have any relationships to these causes and consequences. We attempt to disentangle those characteristics that may reflect a potentially relevant justification from those which violate widely accepted principles of social justice.

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  • Olsen, Jan Abel & Richardson, Jeff & Dolan, Paul & Menzel, Paul, 2003. "The moral relevance of personal characteristics in setting health care priorities," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(7), pages 1163-1172, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:57:y:2003:i:7:p:1163-1172

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Dorte Gyrd-Hansen & Ivar Sønbø Kristiansen, 2008. "Preferences for 'life-saving' programmes: Small for all or gambling for the prize?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(6), pages 709-720.
    2. Jennifer Whitty & Emily Lancsar & Kylie Rixon & Xanthe Golenko & Julie Ratcliffe, 2014. "A Systematic Review of Stated Preference Studies Reporting Public Preferences for Healthcare Priority Setting," The Patient: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research, Springer;Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, vol. 7(4), pages 365-386, December.
    3. Stein, Alexander J. & Meenakshi, J.V. & Qaim, Matin & Nestel, Penelope & Sachdev, H.P.S. & Bhutta, Zulfiqar A., 2005. "Health benefits of biofortification - an ex-ante analysis of iron-rich rice and wheat in India," 2005 Annual meeting, July 24-27, Providence, RI 19468, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    4. Richard Norman & Gisselle Gallego, 2008. "Equity weights for economic evaluation: An Australian Discrete Choice Experiment, CHERE Working Paper 2008/5," Working Papers 2008/5, CHERE, University of Technology, Sydney.
    5. Willen, Sarah S., 2012. "How is health-related “deservingness” reckoned? Perspectives from unauthorized im/migrants in Tel Aviv," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(6), pages 812-821.
    6. Mortimer, Duncan, 2005. "On the relevance of personal characteristics in setting health priorities: a comment on Olsen, Richardson, Dolan and Menzel (2003)," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(8), pages 1661-1664, April.
    7. Green, Colin, 2009. "Investigating public preferences on 'severity of health' as a relevant condition for setting healthcare priorities," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(12), pages 2247-2255, June.


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