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Rationing Health Based on Age

Essay by   •  October 8, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  660 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,595 Views

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To: Congressperson

Re: Rationing by Age


This memo argues whether the United States should ration medical care based on age. Scarcity of certain life-sustaining resources has been the result of insufficient funding to meet the rising cost of medical care (Clarke 2001). Erich H. Loewy (2005), argues if the U.S. should spend large amounts of money on older patients who at best, have a few years to live.

Compare and Contrast:

A number of individuals believe large amounts of money go to waste on expensive medical care of the elderly such as intensive therapy which helps extend the dying process at the end of their lifespan. About 20% of expenditure to the U.S. Medicare program is for 5% of those who die within a year. A majority of medical care for patients 85 and older are to improve the individuals quality of life, not to extend it. It is also true, over 80% of the elderly admitted to intensive-care units survived at least 3 months, as well as 75% of those 85 and older (Levinsky 1998).

One argument for rationing medical care by age is whether it is fair or not. Levinsky found medical ethicists have published analyses that show rationing medical care by age is fair, "the general thrust is that limitation of expenditure in medical care of elderly people is fair because each person would benefit if funds now used to extend life at its end were redirected to improve health earlier in life" (Levinsky 1998 pg. 2). The 'equal worth argument' described in the article written by Clarke (2001) view rationing medical care by age as unfair because treating the young and elderly differently results in unfair and unequal treatment, and life is valuable at any age. Lowey (2005) argues to ration based on age is unfair to the individual denied treatment, and what matters is the individuals disease. Lowey mentions, "We are quite ready to consider restricting medical care for the otherwise well functioning elderly and yet going all out to sustain a 520 gm premature infant with a gr.IV diffuse hemorrhage into its brain as ethically quite acceptable and indeed question the ethics of quitting support at that point" (Lowey 2005 pg. 9). Lowey is saying, ethics begin with facts such as biomedical and social and in this example the fact is not the age of the patient but that the patient is permanently vegetative.


Although a large amount of funding to meet the increasing cost of medical care has resulted in a scarcity of resources, based on what I have reviewed, I conclude denying treatment and the use of new technology to patients based on their age is unfair. I feel when deciding who should and should not receive treatment we consider the individuals need for medical care, their



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