A Critique of Callahan's Utilitarian Approach to Resource Allocation in Health Care
Issues in Law and Medicine 2002 Spring; 17(3): 247-261
The rationale of this article is grounded in the liberal tradition. It places the individual at the center of concern, and attempts to fortify the individual's basic right to health care. Attention is focused on the writings of Daniel Callahan, arguing that his approach is too cold and detached, and that age should not serve as the decisive criterion. The criticism of his views on older patients and on patients in post-coma unawareness (PCU) stems from two different lines of reasoning: the medical and the moral- contractual. From the medical perspective, while age is an important variable in determining a patient's medical condition, there are other -- no less important -- factors that influence one's health. From the moral-contractual line of reasoning, liberal society should not desert its citizens at the time they need its help most. The age criterion is too simple, too general, too sweeping. It provides too convenient an answer to a tough and troubling question. Similarly, the argument with regard to PCU patients should be qualified, taking into account the age of the patient, the cause of the condition, and the length of time in state of unawareness.
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