Towards a New Moral Paradigm in Health Care Delivery: Accounting for Individuals

58 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2009 Last revised: 27 May 2010

See all articles by Meir Katz

Meir Katz

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: August 30, 2009


For years, commentators have debated how to most appropriately allocate scarce medical resources over large populations. In this paper, I abstract the major rationing schema into three general approaches: rationing by price, quantity, and prioritization. Each has both normative appeal and considerable weakness. After exploring them, I present what some commentators have termed the “moral paradigm” as an alternative to broader philosophies designed to encapsulate the universe of options available to allocators (often termed the market, professional, and political paradigms). While not itself an abstraction of any specific viable rationing scheme, it provides a strong basis for the development of a new scheme that offers considerable moral and political appeal often absent from traditionally employed rationing schema.

As I explain, the moral paradigm, in its strong, absolute, and uncompromising version, is economically untenable. This paper articulates a modified version of the moral paradigm that is pluralist in nature rather than absolute. It appeals to the moral, emotional, and irrational sensibilities of each individual person. The moral paradigm, so articulated, can complement any health care delivery system that policy-makers adopt. It functions by granting individuals the ability to appeal to an administrative adjudicatory board designated for this purpose. The adjudicatory board would have the expertise and power to act in response to the complaints of individual aggrieved patients, including those complaints that stem from the moral, religious, ethical, emotional, irrational, or other subjective positions of the patient, and would have plenary power to affirm the denial of access to medical care or to mandate the provision of such care. The board must be designed to facilitate its intended function while creating structural limitations on abuse of power and other excess. I make some specific suggestions on matters of structure and function in the hope of demonstrating both that this adjudicatory model can function and that it can do so immediately, regardless of the underlying health care delivery system or its theoretical underpinnings.

Keywords: rationing, health, health reform, process theory, legal process, pluralism

JEL Classification: H11, H3, H40, H51, H60, I1, I11, I18, K32

Suggested Citation

Katz, Meir, Towards a New Moral Paradigm in Health Care Delivery: Accounting for Individuals (August 30, 2009). American Journal of Law & Medicine, Vol. 36, p. 78, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Meir Katz (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

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