Who Should Ration?
A principal component of physician decision making is judging what interventions are clinically appropriate. Due to the inexorable and steady increase of health care costs in the US, physicians are constantly being urged to exercise judicious financial stewardship with due regard for the financial implications of what they prescribe. When applied on a case-by-case basis, this otherwise reasonable approach can lead to either inadvertent or overt and arbitrary restriction of interventions for some patients rather than others on the basis of clinically irrelevant characteristics such as ethnicity, gender, age, or skin color. In the absence of systemwide reform in which the resources saved from one patient or group of patients are reallocated for the benefit of others, prudence is urged in the application of "bedside rationing."
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