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Books, Journals, New Media
June 9, 1999

Health Economics: Who Shall Live? Health, Economics, and Social Choice

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available

JAMA. 1999;281(22):2146-2147. doi:10.1001/jama.281.22.2146-JBK0609-3-1

Who Shall Live, published in the early 1970s, was one of the first and most influential health economics books ever written. It was highly readable and filled with facts and insights about both health and medical care. I used to recommend it as the first book that anyone should read who wanted a big picture view of the US health system from an economic perspective.

Who Shall Live emphasized the inevitability of choice, since no nation could ever provide all its citizens with all the medical care that might do them some good. Yet, in some sense, choice was not as critical for the nation's health as was commonly believed, since "differences in health levels between the United States and other developed countries or among populations in the United States are not primarily related to differences in the quality or quantity of medical care."