Medical care for the poor: finite resources, infinite need.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Health care in this nation is becoming multitiered--with the poor in jeopardy of being excluded from even minimal care--because of the mistaken belief that money can buy unlimited health care for everyone. But our medical resources are finite, and choices must be made on how to distribute those resources. These choices should be based on a carefully reasoned concept of distributive justice; but even more important, they should be rooted in a Christian sense of community and in the conviction that service to others is more important than life itself. At least three basic models of justice can be identified. Market justice follows the general rule, To each according to his or her ability to pay. Merit justice holds that medical care should be apportioned relative to patients' efforts to stay healthy. Needs-based justice maintains that individuals' needs should be the sole criterion for allocating health care. Developing and testing such concepts of justice is necessary, but it is not enough. As those with economic and social power increasingly capture society's medical resources to keep their own deaths at bay through costly and extraordinary forms of treatment, Christians may well be impelled to take a stand in behalf of those who are being deprived of basic care. This stand may even include forgoing extraordinary treatment for themselves and accepting the appropriateness of their own deaths. Such a witness to the world, however, must be founded in faith and in Christian belief regarding the meaning of death.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Churchill, L; Hauerwas, S; Smith, H

Published Date

  • December 1985

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 66 / 10

Start / End Page

  • 32 - 35

PubMed ID

  • 10274826

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0882-1577


  • eng