Notions of Just Health Care at Three Swedish Hospitals
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 2008 June; 11(2): 145-151
This article investigates what notions of "just health care" are found at three Swedish hospitals among health care personnel and whether these notions are relevant to what priorities are actually made. Fieldwork at all three hospitals and 114 in-depth interviews were conducted. Data have been subject to conceptual and ethical analysis and categorisation. According to our findings, justice is an important idea to health care personnel at the studied hospitals. Two main notions of just health care were found. The main idea was the notion of "equal treatment according to need", the basic idea being that differences in treatment should be justified by differences in needs. The competing idea that merit should affect the treatment received is occasionally encountered, the idea here being that patients, by acting irresponsibly, may no longer deserve to be treated strictly according to needs. In practice, priorities are made on grounds that only partly comply with the basic idea of justice in health care, as it is understood by staff at the studied hospitals. Exceptions are made due to regional differences, considerations of cost-effectiveness, economic incentives, tradition, the daily patient flow, research, private alternatives, patient influence and favouritism of health care personnel.
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