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Limited resources, unlimited needs: Americans should ration health care, says MSU ethicist
Date:3/10/2009

EAST LANSING, Mich. As health care costs soar past $2.5 trillion and more than 47 million people remain uninsured, Americans must be willing to give up certain medical options to ensure health care reform is successful, argues a Michigan State University medical ethicist.

Thousands of uninsured Americans die each year because of their lack of insurance, yet millions of dollars are spent annually on medical procedures that save very few lives or yield only a few extra weeks or months to live. According to MSU's Leonard Fleck, whose book "Just Caring" was recently published by Oxford University Press, a discussion on rationing health care is needed to tackle the paradox that represents health care in America.

"When it comes to health care in America, we have limited resources for unlimited health care needs," said Fleck, a philosophy professor and faculty member in MSU's Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences. "We want everything contemporary medical technology can offer that will improve the length or quality of our lives as we age. But as presently healthy taxpayers, we want costs controlled."

Since America's real shortage when it comes to delivering health care is a fiscal one, a collective discussion needs to be launched to come up with socially acceptable guidelines, states Fleck's book. Otherwise, the gap between those who can and can't afford care will grow.

"This is the 'just caring' problem: Why should anyone else pay attention to my demands for justice in meeting my health needs when I refuse to pay attention to their demands for justice in meeting their health needs?

"No one has a moral right to impose rationing decisions on others if they are unwilling to impose those same rationing decisions on themselves in the same medical circumstances."

Fleck cites several examples of the health care paradox in America:

Cancer treatment: Many lower-cost cancer treatments can su
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Contact: Jason Cody
codyja@msu.edu
517-432-0924
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert

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