BACKGROUND: The topic of this paper is related to equity in health within a country. In public health care sectors of many countries decisions on priority setting with respect to treatment of different types of diseases or patient groups are implicitly or explicitly made. Priorities are realized by allocation decisions for medical resources where moral judgments play an important role with respect to goals and measures that should be applied. The aim of this study is to explore the moral intuitions held in the German society related to priorities in medical treatment. METHODS: We use an experimental questionnaire method established in the Empirical Social Choice literature. Participants are asked to make decisions in a sequence of distributive problems where a limited amount of treatment time has to be allocated to hypothetically described patients. The decision problems serve as an intuition pump. Situations are systematically varied with respect to patients' initial health levels, their ability to benefit from treatment time, and the amount of treatment time available. Subjects are also asked to describe their deliberations. We focus on the acceptance of different allocation principles including equity concepts and utilitarian properties. We investigate rule characteristics like order preservation or monotonicity with respect to resources, severity, or effectiveness. We check the consistency of individual choices with stated reasoning. RESULTS: The goals and allocation principles revealed show that the moral intuitions held by our experimental subjects are much more complex than the principles commonly applied in health economic theory. Especially, cost-utility principles are rarely applied, whereas the goal of equality of health gain is observed more often. The principle not to leave any patient untreated is very dominant. We also observe the degrees to which extent certain monotonicity principles, known from welfare economics, are followed. Subjects were able to describe their moral judgments in written statements. We also find evidence that they followed their respective intuitions very consistently in their decisions. CONCLUSIONS: Findings of the kind presented in this paper may serve as an important input for the public and political discussion when decisions on priorities in the public health care sector are formed.
SchlagwörterClassroom Experiment ; Consistency Of Decision Making ; Distribution Principles ; Measure Of Predictive Success ; Monotonicity Of Allocations ; Priority Setting For Spending ; Selten’s Measure Of Predictive Success
ISSN (print) / ISBN
ZeitschriftInternational Journal for Equity in Health