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Resource allocation and bioethics: the Patti Hearst dilemma

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Medicine has entered an era of high technology, accompanied by expensive investigation and management. Simultaneously, there is increasing recognition of the gap between the costs of medical technology and society's willingness to pay. It is debatable whether medicine recognizes that it is a hostage in thrall to the medical-industrial complex or whether it has wittingly entered the compact to pursue the high-cost, high-technology course. The situation is reminiscent of the events surrounding the kidnap of Patti Hearst − a wealthy heiress who was much later arrested with the gang of robbers. Whether she was hostage or willing accomplice still remains obscure. It is necessary that a body, such as the Cochrane Collaboration, pursues these issues in medicine. (Intern Med J 2003; 33: 127−130)

Keywords: bioethics; high-technology medicine; neonatal intensive care; obstetric ultrasound; resource allocation

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

Publication date: March 1, 2003


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