Health care rationing: Can we afford to ignore euthanasia?

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Explicit rationing decisions are being made to encompass a wide range of health care issues. Voluntary euthanasia has largely been excluded from this debate due to, in my view, the emotive nature of the issue. Euthanasia is an issue in which economists have been largely excluded and in which ethicists and philosophers dominate. It is the purpose of this paper to review the economic and ethical literature on euthanasia and to discuss their compatibility within the debate on euthanasia. The potential cost savings by the use of advance directives, do-not-resuscitate orders, and futile care withdrawal are then reviewed, as are the potential cost savings created by hospice care. As a conclusion, the ethical and economic arguments are then balanced to assess their compatibility. It is the contention of this paper that reducing medical care costs near the end of life should not be a taboo subject, and that rationing decisions could focus on an exploration of this area and the approaches to it, which are ethically justifiable and economically worthwhile. The introduction of a policy of voluntary euthanasia could have a large impact on the rationing of health care resources whilst also promoting patient choice and an arena for a more dignified death.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-41
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Services Management Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


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