Education And Debate

Rationing in general practice: Commentary: Guidelines for rationing resemble process of family decision making

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 15 June 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1531
  1. David C Thomasma, director (
  1. a Medical Humanities Program, Loyola University Chicago, Stritch School of Medicine, 2160 South First Avenue, Maywood, IL 60153, USA

    The origin of the verb “to ration” comes from the Latin ratio to reason. Rationing, or providing guidelines for the use of resources, is a profoundly human activity, arising from our capacity to reason, especially our capacity to reason with an eye to the future and plan accordingly. Because rationing is a human act, it participates in the moral character of all such acts. Therefore the effort to ration resources can be unjust, morally neutral, or a virtue, depending on the motives of those rationing, the qualities of the item to be rationed, and the goals and purposes of providing a plan for allocating resources. In all three instances, rationing arouses the most complex concerns about being fair to others with whom we live in community.

    I take unjust rationing to be any …

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