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An empirical bioethical examination of Norwegian and British doctors' views of responsibility and (de)prioritization in healthcare

Everett, Jim A.C., Maslen, Hannah, Nussberger, Anne-Marie, Bringedal, Berit, Wilkinson, Dominic, Savulescu, Julian (2021) An empirical bioethical examination of Norwegian and British doctors' views of responsibility and (de)prioritization in healthcare. Bioethics, 35 (9). pp. 932-946. ISSN 0269-9702. (doi:10.1111/bioe.12925) (KAR id:92039)


In a world with limited resources, allocation of resources to certain individuals and conditions inevitably means fewer resources allocated to other individuals and conditions. Should a patient's personal responsibility be relevant to decisions re- garding allocation? In this project we combine the normative and the descriptive, conducting an empirical bioethical examination of how both Norwegian and British doctors think about principles of responsibility in allocating scarce healthcare re- sources. A large proportion of doctors in both countries supported including re- sponsibility for illness in prioritization decisions. This finding was more prominent in zero‐sum scenarios where allocation to one patient means that another patient is denied treatment. There was most support for incorporating prospective responsi- bility (through patient contracts), and low support for integrating responsibility into co‐payments (i.e. through requiring responsible patients to pay part of the costs of treatment). Finally, some behaviours were considered more appropriate grounds for deprioritization (smoking, alcohol, drug use)—potentially because of the certainty of impact and direct link to ill health. In zero‐sum situations, prognosis also influenced prioritization (but did not outweigh responsibility). Ethical implications are discussed. We argue that the role that responsibility constructs appear to play in doctors' decisions indicates a needs for more nuanced—and clear—policy. Such policy should account for the distinctions we draw between responsibility‐sensitive and prog- nostic justifications for deprioritization.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1111/bioe.12925
Uncontrolled keywords: attitude of health personnel, decision making, health priorities/ethics, healthcare rationing/ ethics, Norway, UK
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Jim Everett
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2021 10:48 UTC
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2021 10:53 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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