Health Care Analysis

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 73–87

Challenges for Principles of Need in Health Care

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10728-013-0242-7

Cite this article as:
Juth, N. Health Care Anal (2015) 23: 73. doi:10.1007/s10728-013-0242-7


What challenges must a principle of need for prioritisations in health care meet in order to be plausible and practically useful? Some progress in answering this question has recently been made by Hope, Østerdal and Hasman. This article continue their work by suggesting that the characteristic feature of principles of needs is that they are sufficientarian, saying that we have a right to a minimally acceptable or good life or health, but nothing more. Accordingly, principles of needs must answer two distributive questions: when do we have sufficient and how should we prioritise among those who do not yet have a sufficiency? Furthermore, it is argued that Roger Crisp’s theory of need, which combines sufficientarianism with prioritarianism below the threshold of need, is better equipped than alternatives to answer these questions as well as meeting the challenges formulated by Hope, Østerdal and Hasman. However, Crisp’s theory faces two major challenges. First, it has to say something about the currency of distribution: a principle of need must be complemented either with a theory on the human good or a theory about the proper goals of health care. Second, it has to say something about where the threshold should be set. However, any attempt to set a threshold seems morally arbitrary in the light of the sufficientarian idea that those just above the threshold never should be given priority over those just below the threshold.


Distributive justice Health Health care need Prioritarianism Sufficientarianism Well-being 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LIME, Stockholm Centre for Healthcare EthicsKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden

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