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 5: Organ and Tissue Transplantation: A Case Study in Distributive Justice

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


INTRODUCTION Produced in 1906, George Bernard Shaw’s play The Doctor’s Dilemma is as fresh a statement of the current medical issue of resource allocation as it was when first produced. The dilemma for Shaw’s principal character, Dr. Sir Colenso Ridgeon, was to decide—between two patients—which was so deserving as to receive a new wonder drug, designed to cure consumption, that he had developed. One patient was an artist and “dishonest scoundrel” but married to a most attractive woman named Jennifer. The other patient was an honest doctor working with the poor. Initially, Ridgeon decided to give the treatment to the physician, but changed his mind, subsequently, because he was smitten by Jennifer and hoped to curry “favor” with her by assisting her husband. Reversing himself largely because three of his colleagues determined her husband to be a dishonest sociopath, Ridgeon treated the honest doctor and referred the artist-husband of Jennifer to another colleague— condemning him, as such, to death. He rationalized his choice by concluding, “having patients die is a rational part of being a doctor.”1 Today, a similar rationalization is made for those Americans who must die prematurely simply because no organ transplants are available to them. On 3 December 2007, there were over 97 800 candidates for organ transplants— with a new name being added every 10 minutes.2 From January 2007 to 30 November 2007, 21 401 transplants were performed from 10 847 donors.3 These statistics are indeed quite sobering for they confirm what...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Further information