The moral relevance of personal characteristics in setting health care priorities
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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