Maximizing health benefits vs egalitarianism: An Australian survey of health issues

Erik Nord, Jeff Richardson, Andrew Street, Helga Kuhse, Peter Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

193 Scopus citations


Economists have often treated the objective of health services as being the maximization of the QALYs gained, irrespective of how the gains are distributed. In a cross section of Australians such a policy of distributive neutrality received: (a) very little support when health benefits to young people compete with health benefits to the elderly; (b) only moderate support when those who can become a little better compete with those who can become much better; (c) only moderate support when smokers compete with non smokers; (d) some support when young children compete with newborns; and (e) wide spread support when parents of dependent children compete with people without children. Overall, the views of the study population were strongly egalitarian. A policy of health benefit maximization received very limited support when the consequence is a loss of equity and access to services for the elderly and for people with a limited potential for improving their health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1429-1437
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 1995
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • QALY
  • egalitarian
  • equity
  • health economics
  • priority


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