The Importance of Care
van Schie, Tejo
Health Care Analysis. 1997 Dec; 5(4): 283-291.
This paper is in three parts. In Part One we briefly explain that an unsophisticated form of utilitarianism -- economic rationalism (ER) -- has become dominant in many health systems. Its proponents argue that one of ER's most important effects is to increase consumer choice. However, evidence from New Zealand does not support this claim. Furthermore, the logic of ER requires the construction of systems which tend to restrict individual participation. In Part Two we argue that although some have advocated an 'ethic of care' in an attempt to counteract ER's utilitarianism, two decades of campaigning have had little influence on health policy. ER's pro-care adversaries have failed to make an impact because they have not developed a taxonomy of care -- they have not established a language compatible with, or as powerful as, ER's. In Part Three, in an attempt to raise the conceptual and practical status of caring in contemporary health systems, we distinguish four different forms of care. In opposition to those who believe the 'ethic of care' can adequately direct health care practice, we demonstrate that care is a secondary notion. We show that in order for a carer to decide which form of care to adopt in different situations she requires a more powerful idea. We contend further that health care ought to be governed by a theory of health, and suggest that 'the foundations theory of health' should be adopted by planners searching for a more humane alternative to ER. We conclude that ER's dominance can and must be challenged. However, only those arguments which offer detailed theoretical analyses of health care, as well as meticulously derived practical policies, have any chance of success.
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