Medical Ethics PHIL 148 @ Binghamton University, Sum 11


Debate Summary- Health Care & Justice

The idea of whether administering limited medical resources out to patients on a first come, first serve basis is a very controversial one. It can be attested both ways very honorably. Here are a few reasons people have argued that this method of distributing resources is unfair. For one it can be argued that these are important medical resources and therefore should be distributed to those in need of it, not simply to those who are in line for it. Many of these individuals may not necessarily need them but simply want them. Medical resources should be treated with a higher regard, it is not a materialistic want, such as an iPod and for some it can be matter of life and death. The question of autonomy also came about in the form of challenging a person’s right to a limited resource simply because they were in line first. The moral and utilitarian thing to do in this case would be to honor a person’s need for a resource first before their want. It was also made clear that this is a situation in where inequality is unavoidable and if anything encouraged because some people have a higher need for the limited resource then others and therefore their need should be met first regardless to who came in line first. If hospitals treat these resources in any other way then unfairness is dealt to those with a more severe need then others. One may also find themselves arguing that instead of the method of first come, first serve, severity should be the deciding factor of resources. How severe a patients need is a more just way of distributing resources then going by a chronological protocol. A utilitarian would justify this entire argument by saying that giving at least minimal treatment to all is what is moral. Denying someone stitches for something as serious as a gunshot wound would be completely immoral if the reason was because that resource was already given to someone who came earlier then that patient when instead their need could have been satisfied without consumption of that limited resource.

Taking into account the several reasons that the first come, first serve method is not favored amongst people, there are also numerous reasons one may be pro this decision. For instance it can be said that a medical institutions duty is to provide care and resources necessary for good health out to its patients. However, some resources are limited and therefore a fair and orderly method is necessary to distribute these resources equally. It is up to physicians and practitioners under their Hippocratic Oath to perform at their best abilty to get a patient healthy and to look out for their well being first and utmost. It does not make sense for a doctor to simply not treat a patient that is currently under their care with the best medicine possible simply under the assumption that a future more severe case may come along. If that case never comes, then there is a loss of that limited resource along with complete dissatisfaction of treatment by both patient and doctor. This is a very un-utilitarian way of doing things because there is displeasure going around from all sides. Many feel that it is a hospitals duty to respect fairness and therefore respect a patients place in line, if you may, for receiving a resource for it is their right and they deserve the opportunity to be treated fairly. Another argument is that several resources are limited and have a short life span. If we want to put these resources to use in the most utilitarian and moral way possible then they should be distributed to those who come first to claim them. Doctors cannot be held back under the assumption that a more sever case may come along. The life span of the resource may simply dwindle away while the doctor waits for a fictional patient to come around while a real patient in need of their care is already present. Both for and against first come, first serve can be argued heavily. It is simply up to our health care system to determine who makes the more insightful assertion.

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