University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE Priority Setting, Justice and Resource Allocation

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Moral Theology

DESCRIPTION The allocation of health care services is a particularly thorny issue because of the difficulty in determining what constitutes a decent or reasonable level of health care. The availability today of increasingly more sophisticated medical procedures means that priorities have to be set which can evidently limit the opportunities of some and expand those of others. Thus, the initial question to be discussed is in what sense one can speak of a just system of health care allocation in view of diverging views of distributive justice that tend to focus on the right either to freedom of access or equality of treatment. The debate on justice in health care can shed light on current approaches to the role of the public and the private sector as channels of distribution.

The study-unit opens with an analysis of the general trends in health care services, focusing on where the problems of health care allocation generally lie. It will then explain the current ways of understanding distributive justice in the health care sector and try to bring out the deeper roots of divergences of public opinion on the matter. The final part will be devoted to an analysis and an assessment of the local practice of the health care services in an ethical perspective.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: By the end of the course the student should:

a) know the problems in implementing everyone’s right to adequate health care;
b) learn to look at the ethical dimension of the priorities that public policy sets to the allocation of health care resources;
c) be able to identify courses of action that can improve everyone’s opportunities to get the health care one needs.


a. BARRY Robert - BRADLEY Gerard, Set No Limits: A Rebuttal to Daniel Callahan’s Proposal to Limit Health Care for the Elderly, Illinois, 1991.
b. CALLAHAN Daniel, What kind of life? The Limits of Medical Progress, 1989.
c. BOYLE Philip J. - CALLAHAN Daniel, What Price Mental Health? The Ethics and Politics of Setting Priorities, Hastings Centre Studies in Ethics 1995.
d. DWORKIN Ronald, Sovereign Virtue: The Theory and Practice of Equality, Cambridge 2000.
e. JONES Robert P., Liberalism’s Troubled Search for Equality: Religion and Cultural Bias in the Oregon Physician-Assisted Suicide Debates, Indiana 2007.
f. KEANE Philip S., Health Care Reform: A Catholic View, New York 1993.
g. NUSSBAUM Martha - SEN Amartya, The Quality of Life, 1993.
h. SEN Amartya, Development as Freedom, New York 1999.


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Presentation Yes 40%
Assignment Yes 60%

LECTURER/S George Grima

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
21st Annual Augustinian Lecture 2017
The 21st Annual Augustinian Lecture 2017 will be celebrated on the 5th and 6th December 2017 with two lectures delivered by Rev. Prof. Theodore Dieter.

Closing Date Dissertation Proposals
Deadline to present dissertation proposals for next Faculty Board is Wednesday 29th November 2017 at 1700hrs

Augustinian Institute Academic Year 2017-18

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Dissertation Logbook
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