The commodification of medical and health care: the moral consequences of a paradigm shift from a professional to a market ethic

J Med Philos. 1999 Jun;24(3):243-66. doi: 10.1076/jmep.


Commodification of health care is a central tenet of managed care as it functions in the United States. As a result, price, cost, quality, availability, and distribution of health care are increasingly left to the workings of the competitive marketplace. This essay examines the conceptual, ethical, and practical implications of commodification, particularly as it affects the healing relationship between health professionals and their patients. It concludes that health care is not a commodity, that treating it as such is deleterious to the ethics of patient care, and that health is a human good that a good society has an obligation to protect from the market ethos.

MeSH terms

  • Beneficence
  • Capitalism
  • Commerce
  • Commodification*
  • Economic Competition
  • Ethics
  • Ethics, Business
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Health Care Sector* / standards
  • Human Body
  • Humans
  • Managed Care Programs / economics*
  • Managed Care Programs / standards
  • Moral Obligations
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Social Justice*
  • Social Values
  • United States