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May 1991

Who Ought to Get Decent Health Care?

Author Affiliations

Galveston, Tex

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1991;117(5):496-497. doi:10.1001/archotol.1991.01870170042010

Ought belongs to the vocabulary of ethics. It specifies responsible action. To say that one ought to do something implies that one is duty bound to do it. It is not optional but obligatory. Failure to do what one ought to do is an abrogation of responsibility.

This being so, the answer to the question that titles this essay seems obvious. Surely everyone has decent health care coming, but who is "everyone"? Everyone who wants it, whether or not they need it? Everyone who needs it, irrespective of their ability to pay for it? And what constitutes decent health care? Preventive care, catastrophic care, long-term care? The ethical question as to who ought to get decent health care is a complicated one.

A system of health care provision is made up of several crucial features, notably quality, cost, and access. In keeping with the theme of this issue of the

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