Medicine as a Commodity

Authored by: Carl Elliott

The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Medicine

Print publication date:  October  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138846791
eBook ISBN: 9781315720739
Adobe ISBN: 9781317519850


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In 1971, The New England Journal of Medicine published a classic defense of medical care as a market commodity. “Medical care is neither a right nor a privilege,” wrote Robert Sade, a cardiovascular surgeon, “it is a service that is provided by doctors and others to people who wish to purchase it.” In Sade’s view, sick people do not have a right to demand medical care; doctors do not have an obligation to provide it; and it is improper for the state to interfere with services that doctors produce and own. Sade wrote: “In a free society, man exercises his right to sustain his own life by producing economic values in the form of goods and services that he is, or should be, free to exchange with other men who are similarly free to trade with him or not” (Sade 1971).

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