Get access

Prioritizing Patients for Surgery: Factors Affecting Allocation of Medical Resources for Kidney Transplantation, IVF, and Rhinoplasty


  • This research was supported by a grant from the Nuffield Foundation.

Adrian Furnham, Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London, 26 Bedford Way, London, WC1H 0AP, UK. E-mail:


The present study sought to investigate whether the factors that affect the allocation of scarce medical resources vary across different types of treatment and whether participants prioritize hypothetical patients based on patients' marital status, annual income, history of mental illness, and smoking habits. Study participants (N = 114) made prioritization decisions that were found to be very different across treatments. Repeated-measure ANOVAs showed that single patients were favored for rhinoplasty, while married patients were favored for in vitro fertilization (IVF) and kidney transplant treatment. Nonsmoking patients were preferred over their smoking counterparts. Low-income patients were favored for rhinoplasty and kidney transplant operations, but not for IVF. Mentally healthy patients were generally preferred over mentally ill patients.