Actuality - Medical ethics and economics in the era of insufficient resources

Gabi Bin Nun, Arnon Afek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: During the Golden Age of Medicine (20th Century), scientific and technological breakthroughs enabled physicians to cure people's illnesses. The idealist, romantic approach of medical practice believed in the right of every human being to receive the best treatment possible, regardless of cost. However, the rise in health care expenditure at the end of the 20th Century made this impossible, therefore other approaches were adopted. The aim of this study is to investigate the causes of the change in medical approaches while distinguishing between the different methods practiced by nations in order to deal with the disparity created by ethical dilemmas caused by scare resources and delivery of medical treatment. Method: This study is based on the evaluation of macro economic data and the comparison of international health data. Special emphasis was given to the evaluation of Israeli health economics since the National Health Insurance Act (1995). Results: The study shows two different approaches to the problem of scarce resources: the liberal approach, as practiced in the USA, and the Social Democratic approach which is common in many European countries, including Israel. The Social Democratic ideology believes in public financing of defined health care services to all citizens. This method implies rationing and managed care in order to absorb medical expenses. Discussion: The ethical dilemmas arising from the necessity to add economic considerations to a physician's care of his patient, demand that any given healthcare system find the right equilibrium. This balance between clinical, social, and economical considerations is not easily achieved. Only dialogue within the health care system itself, and with the public, can achieve the best possible balance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-148
Number of pages5
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Health economics
  • Health expenditure
  • Medical ethics
  • Rationing


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