Pricing Life

Why It's Time For Healthcare Rationing


Although managed health care is a hot topic, too few discussion focus on health care rationing—who lives and who dies, death versus dollars. In this book physician and bioethicist Peter A. Ubel argues that physicians, health insurance companies, managed care organizations, and governments need to consider the cost-effectiveness of many new health care technologies, In particular, they need to think about how to best ration health care. Ubel believes that standard medical training should provide physicians with the expertise to decide when to withhold health care from patients, He discusses the moral questions raised by this position, and by health care rationing in general. He incorporates ethical arguments about the appropriate role of cost-effectiveness analysis in health care rationing, empirical research about how the general public wants to ration care, and clinical insights based on his practice of general internal medicine. Straddling the fields of ethics, economics, research psychology, and clinical medicine, he moves the debate forward from whether to ration and how to ration. The discussion is enlivened by actual case studies.



“Ubel makes a decisive case for the ubiquity and desirability of health care rationing, and clarifies the limitations and promise of cost-effectiveness analysis for making rationing choices. His book should be read by anyone concerned with the future of the health care system00no other book does more to illuminate these difficult and important issues.”

DAN W. BROCK, Ph.D., Charles C. Tillinghast, Jr. University Professor, Professor Philosophy and Biomedical Ethics, and Director, Center for Biomedical Ethics, Brown University

“An honest, no-holds-barred look at health care rationing, with a plea for cost-effectiveness analysis. Who could argue? Current rationing is hardly rational.”

ALFRED I. TAUBER, M.D., Center for Philosophy and History of Science, Boston University

Pricing Life  provides an original and penetrating analysis of health care rationing and cost-effectiveness analysis by a physician who confronts these issues every day. Peter Ubel’s insights need to be taken seriously by anyone interested in both a fairer and more efficient health care system.”


“Ubel’s book is quite possibly the very best available on the question of rationing health care and all the policy and ethical problems attending any reasonable discussion on the matter. It is a first-rate contribution.”

ROBERT ALMEDER, Professor Philosophy, Georgia State University, and editor, The American Philosophical Quarterly