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Book and Media Reviews
April 1, 2009

Distributive Justice and the New Medicine

JAMA. 2009;301(13):1384-1389. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.383

Distributive justice is the notion that all persons should be treated fairly, even when their circumstances differ. It is more complex than equal protection, which is the legal requirement that all persons be treated the same. For example, applying the law equally to rich and poor persons may leave the poor worse off than the rich. Distributive justice seeks equality, not just uniformity. In health care, equal protection might be satisfied by a health plan that allows everyone to purchase the same high-technology care, while distributive justice might demand a system in which the rich and poor have equal access to such care.

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