The Journal of Value Inquiry

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 17–24 | Cite as

Capacity, Obligation, and Medical Billing

  • Mark WellsEmail author
  • Jacob Sparks
It is a common assumption that medical institutions may permissibly use the force of law to seek remuneration for costs incurred in medical intervention done without patient consent. In this paper, we challenge that assumption. Specifically, we claim that:

(1) Generally, when patients who lack capacity are given medical treatment without their consent, those practitioners who treated them are wrong to use legal mechanisms to secure remuneration for that treatment (i.e. charge them for that treatment).

To motivate this claim, imagine you are out for a walk one evening when you slip on the pavement and are knocked unconscious. When you come to, a crafty looking salesman shakes your hand, congratulates you on the purchase of a new boat and swiftly departs before you regain your composure. When you get home, the boat is waiting in your driveway and the bill arrives a few days later. Obviously something is amiss. One cannot buy a boat when unconscious. Yet many people become financially...



We would like to thank the participants of the 2015 UAMS Intensive Healthcare Ethics Workshop and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments on previous drafts of this paper.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The College of WoosterWoosterUSA
  2. 2.Bowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA

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