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How should we talk about healthcare rationing?

Peter Ubel | FEBRUARY 2016

Peter Ubel of Duke University examines the idea of healthcare rationing, with a particular focus on the words that people use to communicate about rationing. He poses the idea that doctors have a responsibility not just to the patient in front of them but to the broader population as well. For example, just as we are parsimonious about the use of antibiotics, Ubel says, we ought to be parsimonious about the use of certain tests and procedures. According to Ubel, healthcare is a type of stewardship. He argues that in practice people tend to advocate for rationing in many forms, but they do not accept the term because of its negative moral connotations. He believes that it is the job of ethicists to examine the moral components to these ideas and help people to understand them better.