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Rationing and life-saving treatments: should identifiable patients have higher priority?
  1. Tony Hope
  1. University of Oxford


    Health care systems across the world are unable to afford the best treatment for all patients in all situations. Choices have to be made. One key ethical issue that arises for health authorities is whether the principle of the “rule of rescue” should be adopted or rejected. According to this principle more funding should be available in order to save lives of identifiable, compared with unidentifiable, individuals. Six reasons for giving such priority to identifiable individuals are considered. All are rejected. It is concluded that the principle of the rule of rescue should not be used in determining the allocation of health resources.

    • “Rule of rescue”
    • priority setting
    • resource allocation
    • rationing
    • justice

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    • Tony Hope MA, PhD, FRCPsych, is Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of Oxford and Director of the Ethox Centre.

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