Evidence-based medicine: a new tool for resource allocation?

Med Health Care Philos. 2003;6(3):297-301. doi: 10.1023/a:1025969303573.


Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) is defined as the conscious, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients. The greater the level of evidence the greater the grade of recommendation. This pioneering explicit concept of EBM is embedded in a particular view of medical practice namely the singular nature of the patient-physician relation and the commitment of the latter towards a specific goal: the treatment and the well being of his or her client. Nevertheless, in many European countries as well as in the United States, this "integration of the best evidence from systematic research with clinical expertise and patient values" appears to be re-interpreted in light of the scarcity of healthcare resources. The purpose of this paper is double. First, to claim that from an ethical perspective EBM should be a guideline to clinical practice; and second, that in specific circumstances EBM might be a useful tool in macro-allocation of healthcare resources. Methodologically the author follows Norman Daniels' theory of "democratic accountability" to justify this assumption. That is, choices in healthcare must be accountable by democratic procedures. This perspective of distributive justice is responsible for the scope and limits of healthcare services. It follows that particular entitlements to healthcare--namely expensive innovative treatments and medicines--may be fairly restricted as long as this decision is socially and democratically accountable and imposed by financial restrictions of the system. In conclusion, the implementation of EBM, as long as it limits the access to drugs and treatments of unproven scientific results is in accordance with this perspective. The use of EBM is regarded as an instrument to facilitate the access of all citizens to a reasonable level of healthcare and to promote the efficiency of the system.

MeSH terms

  • Europe
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / economics
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / ethics*
  • Health Care Rationing / economics
  • Health Care Rationing / ethics*
  • Health Priorities / economics
  • Health Priorities / ethics
  • Humans
  • Physician-Patient Relations / ethics
  • Resource Allocation / economics
  • Resource Allocation / ethics*
  • Social Justice
  • Social Responsibility