The Selling of Mental Health Services: Some Ethical Reflections
Medicine and Law: World Association for Medical Law 1993; 12(3-4-5): 229-233
Since the introduction of public mental health services in Israel, the main principle of our work has been to provide equal and free of charge health services to all patients. We were proud of our ability to provide optimal treatment to all patients in all our facilities, regardless of cost or status of insurance. During the last decade, the cost of providing good quality public health services, including mental health services, has constantly increased, and the system has reached a state of financial distress resulting in insufficiency and inability to perform properly. In order to maintain the level of mental health services, the health authorities started planning a system of payment for various mental health services which, until now, were supplied free of charge. This change of policy and attitude towards the population in need poses severe ethical and practical questions and problems. It is questionable that the amount of income ensuing from the sale of mental health services and whether a relatively small financial profit justify possible injury of the population in need of these services, especially the sicker and weaker members of it. This article raises some ethical doubts involved in charging money for psychiatric services that are given to this special group of the mentally ill, and claims that the feasibility of selling services in this area of public health should be reinvestigated.
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