Health Care and Utilitarianism

Essay by rakeshcalton February 2006

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In order to analyze David Eddy's argument, "that the objective of health care is to maximize the health of the population served subject to available resources". Let us first examine John Stuart Mill's ethical theory of Utilitarianism.

Mill held two theories on utilitarianism, a normative and a psychological one. Normative views of Mills' include his "principle of utility" which says actions are right if they produce the greatest amount of happiness and pleasure and wrong if they cause displeasure and pain. His psychological theory says people want to live in harmony with their fellow man and that they have a basic sensitivity to the needs of others. Utilitarianism is interested in promoting the balance of the greatest amount of good or value in society while keeping to a minimum the disvalue for all persons affected. This balance, utilitarian promoters believe, will lead to efficiency and the best use of scarce resources.

Efficiency, according to utilitarians is a means to maximize human good. In health care management efficient utilization of scarce resources is a result of a strong utilitarian influence.

Utilitarians would view the provision of health care to all the people as being ethical. They would say that this action leaves society better off as a whole and causes the greatest good for mankind. They would say giving providing the best possible health care to sick and suffering people would cause great amounts of happiness and pleasure for these sick people and alleviate tremendous amounts of pain to many suffering bodies. Suffering people would become healthier and able to become more productive in society. Resources such as man, material, money and machine are scarce and valuable and protecting them for the betterment of society would be the optimal decision to make.

Mill would say this is the correct decision...