Age as a basis for healthcare rationing. Arguments against agism

Drugs Aging. 1996 Dec;9(6):399-402. doi: 10.2165/00002512-199609060-00002.


Age alone is a poor marker of disability. Decision making in medicine should be based on potential benefit to the individual. Most healthcare expenditure on the elderly is for routine care, which few could argue should be denied because of age. Healthcare reforms that encourage functional independence and community based care of the elderly are more likely to lead to cost savings than simple rationing according to age. Treatment options previously thought futile in the elderly, particularly surgical interventions and drug therapy for cardiovascular disease, have been shown to be effective in terms of improved health and cost benefit. Thus, discrimination on the basis of age (agism) is not only ethically unacceptable in a society embracing principles of justice and equity, but also unsupportable on scientific and/or economic analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Aged*
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Health Care Rationing / economics
  • Health Care Rationing / standards*
  • Humans
  • Prejudice*
  • Social Justice
  • United States