Health Care Analysis

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 153-165

First online:

Ethical Issues in the Economic Assessment of Health Care Technologies

  • Jean-Paul MoattiAffiliated withUniversity of the MediterraneanInstitut Paoli-Calmettes, Regional Cancer Hospital

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This paper challenges traditional views which oppose health economics and medical ethics by arguing that economic assessment is a necessary complement to medical ethics and can help to improve public participation and democratic processes in choices about resource allocation for health care technologies. In support of this argument, four points are emphasized: (1) Most current biomedical ethical debates implicitly deal with economic issues of resource allocation. (2) Clinical decisions, which usually respect the Hippocratic code of ethics, are nevertheless influenced by economic incentives and constraints. (3) Economic assessment is concerned with both efficiency and equity and potential trade-offs between the two, which means that ethical judgements are always embedded in welfare economics. (4) The real debate is not between economics on the one side and medical ethics on the other. Rather it is between different ethical conceptions of social justice and the contrasting approaches they entail to reconciling individual interests and preferences with collective goods and welfare.

ethics welfare economics cost-benefit analysis health care technologies