Moral Hazard in Pediatrics
Ethics and Business Law
Date of this version
children and families, conflict of interest, decision making, risk/benefit analysis
“Moral hazard” is a term familiar in economics and business ethics that illuminates why rational parties sometimes choose decisions with bad moral outcomes without necessarily intending to behave selfishly or immorally. The term is not generally used in medical ethics. Decision makers such as parents and physicians generally do not use the concept or the word in evaluating ethical dilemmas. They may not even be aware of the precise nature of the moral hazard problem they are experiencing, beyond a general concern for the patient’s seemingly excessive burden. This article brings the language and logic of moral hazard to pediatrics. The concept reminds us that decision makers in this context are often not the primary party affected by their decisions. It appraises the full scope of risk at issue when decision makers decide on behalf of others and leads us to separate, respect, and prioritize the interests of affected parties.
The American Journal of Bioethics
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