Distributive Justice and the New Medicine

Distributive Justice and the New Medicine

George P. Smith II

The author begins by examining various economic constructs as aids for achieving a fair and equitable delivery of health care services. He then assesses their level of practical application and evaluates the costs and benefits to society of pursuing the development and use of the ‘New Medicine’. The book ends with a case study of organ and tissue transplantation that illustrates the implementation of distributive justice. The author concludes that as long as clinical medicine maintains its focus on healing and alleviating suffering among patients, a point of equilibrium will be reached that advances the common good.

Chapter 3: The new medicine and scientific research

George P. Smith II

Subjects: economics and finance, health policy and economics, law - academic, health law, politics and public policy, public policy, social policy and sociology, economics of social policy, health policy and economics

Extract

3. The new medicine and scientific research INTRODUCTION Substantial scientific evidence indicates man’s genetic inheritance acts as a major influence not only upon his behavior but also upon his health.1 In the United States, for example, it is estimated that 1 out of every 33 babies is born with a discernible genetic deficiency which in turn accounts for more than 20 percent of all infant deaths.2 Of all chronic diseases, between 20 and 25 percent are predominantly genetic in origin.3 Down syndrome, for example, is a genetic condition affecting nearly 1 in 800 babies.4 At least half of the hospital beds in America have been occupied by patients whose incapacities were known to be of a genetic origin.5 Because modern medicine can alleviate the symptoms of some genetic diseases through sophisticated treatment, many who are afflicted and who would not have survived in the past now survive. Medicine is unable to cure genetic defects ex utero,6 but has been astute in identifying over 4000 inherited disorders.7 The “new medicine” attempts—largely through genetic diagnostics, screening and manipulation—to alleviate the heartbreak of genetic suffering and thereby attack genetic disease. Unmistakenly, this type of medicine has a eugenic character; but this, as will be seen, is by no means an overpowering negative.8 Considerable research into techniques for perfecting genetic engineering has been undertaken in an attempt to develop new treatment for individuals with inherited diseases.9 Under the rubric of the “New Biology,” scientists...

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