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Priority-setting in healthcare: a framework for reasonable clinical judgements
  1. K Bærøe
  1. Kristine Bærøe, The Center for the Studies of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen, Post Box 7805, N-5020 Bergen, Norway; kristine.baroe{at}


What are the criteria for reasonable clinical judgements? The reasonableness of macro-level decision-making has been much discussed, but little attention has been paid to the reasonableness of applying guidelines generated at a macro-level to individual cases. This paper considers a framework for reasonable clinical decision-making that will capture cases where relevant guidelines cannot reasonably be followed. There are three main sections. (1) Individual claims on healthcare from the point of view of concerns about equity are analysed. (2) The demands of responsibility and equity on professional clinical performance are discussed, and how the combination of these demands emerges into seven requirements that constitute the framework is explored. Since this framework is developed to assist in reasonable clinical decision-making, practical implications of all these requirements are also suggested. (3) Challenges concerning the framework are discussed. First, a crucial presumption that the framework relies upon is considered—namely, clinicians’ willingness to justify their decisions as requested. Then how public deliberation may influence clinical decision-making is discussed. Next is a consideration of how clinicians’ need to have confidence in their own judgements in order to perform in a manner worthy of trust would be compatible with adherence to the framework supported by public deliberation. It is concluded that fair distribution in the interplay between macro- and micro-level considerations can be secured by legitimising procedures on each level, by ensuring well-organised and continuing public debate and by basing individual clinical judgements upon well-justified and principled normative bases.

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  • Funding: The project is funded by The Research Council of Norway.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • Provenance and peer review: Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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