Factors Affecting Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources Across Life-Threatening Medical Conditions


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Adrian Furnham, Department of Psychology, University College London, 26 Bedford Way, London WC1H OAP. E-mail: a.furnham@ucl.ac.uk


This study aimed to determine whether participants used different criteria to allocate scarce medical resources depending on the medical condition. Allocations of HIV antiretroviral treatment and heart-transplant surgery were examined. Participants completed 2 questionnaires requiring them to prioritize 16 hypothetical patients. Demographic data on hypothetical patients varied on 4 dimensions: age, gender, sexual orientation, and promiscuity. There were significant main effects of age, sexual orientation, and promiscuity in both medical conditions. Young people were favored over old, heterosexuals over homosexuals, and monogamous over promiscuous patients. Stronger effects of sexual orientation and promiscuity were found in the HIV treatment condition. Participants used a more utilitarian approach in their allocation decisions and demonstrated prejudice against homosexuals and promiscuous patients.