Altruism and Self Interest in Medical Decision Making
Version of Record online: 28 AUG 2009
© 2009 American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Inc.
The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics
Volume 37, Issue 3, pages 401–409, Fall 2009
How to Cite
Rubin, P. H. (2009), Altruism and Self Interest in Medical Decision Making. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 37: 401–409. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-720X.2009.00401.x
- Issue online: 28 AUG 2009
- Version of Record online: 28 AUG 2009
We seem to prefer that medicine and medical care be provided through altruistic motives. Even the pharmaceutical industry justifies its behavior in terms of altruistic purposes. But economists have known since Adam Smith that self-interested behavior can create large and growing social benefits. This is true for medical care as well as for other goods. First, I consider specifically the case of pharmaceutical promotion, both to physicians and to consumers. I argue that such promotion is highly beneficial to patients and leads to health improvements. I consider some criticisms of promotion, and show that they are misguided. I then provide some evolutionary explanations for our erroneous beliefs about medical care.