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Social justice is concerned with fair distribution of the benefits and burdens of living together in society. Regarding nursing care, social justice is concerned with who should receive its benefits, how much they should receive, and who should take up the burden of providing and paying for it. A specific thesis is offered: ‘Health care, including nursing care, should be distributed on the basis of need, free at the point of use, the cost being born by the community involved.’ This thesis is shown to be incompatible with consequentialist (utilitarian) and libertarian approaches to social justice, but reasons are given for rejecting these theories. It is shown that it may be compatible with Rawl's liberal theory of justice and definitely compatible with a version of the teleological (Aristotelian) theory. The thesis is then defended against criticisms concerned with desert and responsibility: that the provident ought not to pay for the improvident, and that those who are responsible for their health do not deserve free care. There are answered by an epistemological argument concerning what we need to know before we can decide what people deserve, and an argument about social cohesion. The conclusion is that the thesis can be offered as a moral principle for a fair society.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Faculty of Applied Social Science, Buckinghamshire New University, Queen Alexandra Road, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, UK

Publication date: 2012-01-01

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