Resource utilization in the emergency department: the duty of stewardship

J Emerg Med. 1998 May-Jun;16(3):499-503. doi: 10.1016/s0736-4679(98)00029-8.


As the pool of available health care resources continues to evaporate, emergency physicians will be increasingly required to guard against the provision of expensive, unnecessary, and marginally beneficial care. This article proposes that emergency physicians embrace the ethic of prudent resource stewardship to ensure the continued availability of emergency services to all who need them. When making resource allocation decisions, emergency physicians must consider the likelihood, magnitude, and duration of benefits to patients, the urgency of the condition, and the cost and burdens of treatment to patients, payers, and society. These considerations go beyond professional duties to individual patients and suggest that ignoring the burdens of emergency department microallocation decisions is socially and morally irresponsible.

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Ethics, Institutional*
  • Health Care Rationing / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Social Responsibility*
  • United States