Public Preferences about Fairness and the Ethics of Allocating Scarce Medical Interventions

In Meng Li & David Tracer (eds.), Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Fairness, Equity, and Justice. pp. 51-65 (2017)
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This chapter examines how social- scientific research on public preferences bears on the ethical question of how those resources should in fact be allocated, and explain how social-scientific researchers might find an understanding of work in ethics useful as they design mechanisms for data collection and analysis. I proceed by first distinguishing the methodologies of social science and ethics. I then provide an overview of different approaches to the ethics of allocating scarce medical interventions, including an approach—the complete lives system—which I have previously defended, and a brief recap of social-scientific research on the allocation of scarce medical resources. Following these overviews, I examine different ways in which public preferences could matter to the ethics of allocation. Last, I suggest some ways in which social scientists could learn from ethics as they conduct research into public preferences regarding the allocation of scarce medical resources.
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