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The moral relevance of personal characteristics in setting health care priorities


  • Olsen, Jan Abel

    () (Institute of Community Medicine)

  • Ricardson, Jeff

    (Centre for Health Program Evaluation)

  • Dolan, Paul

    (Sheffield Health Economics Group)

  • Mentzel, Paul

    (Pacific Lutheran University)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Olsen, Jan Abel & Ricardson, Jeff & Dolan, Paul & Mentzel, Paul, 2009. "The moral relevance of personal characteristics in setting health care priorities," HERO On line Working Paper Series 2002:17, Oslo University, Health Economics Research Programme.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:oslohe:2002_017

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ernst R. Berndt & Robert S. Pindyck & Pierre Azoulay, 2003. "Consumption Externalities and Diffusion in Pharmaceutical Markets: Antiulcer Drugs," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(2), pages 243-270, June.
    2. Amrita Bhattacharyya, 2005. "Advertising in Specialized Markets: Example from the US Pharmaceutical Industry," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 610, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 10 Nov 2005.
    3. Stern, S. & Trajtenberg, M., 1998. "Empirical Implications of Physician Authority in Pharmaceutical Decisionmaking," Papers 24-98, Tel Aviv.
    4. Danzon, Patricia M. & Nicholson, Sean & Pereira, Nuno Sousa, 2005. "Productivity in pharmaceutical-biotechnology R&D: the role of experience and alliances," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 317-339, March.
    5. DiMasi, Joseph A. & Hansen, Ronald W. & Grabowski, Henry G. & Lasagna, Louis, 1991. "Cost of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 107-142, July.
    6. Steven T. Berry, 1994. "Estimating Discrete-Choice Models of Product Differentiation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 25(2), pages 242-262, Summer.
    7. Patricia M. Danzon & Andrew Epstein & Sean Nicholson, 2007. "Mergers and acquisitions in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(4-5), pages 307-328.
    8. Train,Kenneth E., 2009. "Discrete Choice Methods with Simulation," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521747387, May.
    9. Paul Ellickson & Scott Stern & Manuel Trajtenberg, 2001. "Patient Welfare and Patient Compliance -- An Empirical Framework for Measuring the Benefits from Pharmaceutical Innovation," NBER Chapters,in: Medical Care Output and Productivity, pages 539-564 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Franco Malerba & Luigi Orsenigo, 2002. "Innovation and market structure in the dynamics of the pharmaceutical industry and biotechnology: towards a history-friendly model," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(4), pages 667-703, August.
    11. DiMasi, Joseph A. & Hansen, Ronald W. & Grabowski, Henry G., 2003. "The price of innovation: new estimates of drug development costs," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 151-185, March.
    12. Cockburn, Iain M. & Henderson, Rebecca M., 2001. "Scale and scope in drug development: unpacking the advantages of size in pharmaceutical research," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 1033-1057, November.
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    More about this item


    Health care priorities; Ethics; Personal responsibilities; Consequences;

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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