Bioethics for clinicians: 13. Resource allocation

Martin F. McKneally, Bernard M. Dickens, Eric M. Meslin, Peter A. Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalShort survey

55 Scopus citations


Questions of resource allocation can pose practical and ethical dilemmas for clinicians. In the Aristotelian conception of distributive justice, the unequal allocation of a scarce resource may be justified by morally relevant factors such as need or likelihood of benefit. Even using these criteria, it can be difficult to reconcile completing claims to determine which patients should be given priority. To what extent the physician's fiduciary duty toward a patient should supersede the interests of other patients and society as a whole is also a matter of controversy. Although the courts have been reluctant to become involved in allocation decisions in health care, they expect physicians to show allegiance to their patients regardless of budgetary concerns. The allocation of resources on the basis of clinically irrelevant factors such as religion or sexual orientation is prohibited. Clear, fair and publicly acceptable institutional and professional policies can help to ensure that resource allocation decisions are transparent and defensible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-167
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Bioethics for clinicians: 13. Resource allocation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    McKneally, M. F., Dickens, B. M., Meslin, E. M., & Singer, P. A. (1997). Bioethics for clinicians: 13. Resource allocation. CMAJ, 157(2), 163-167.