Should we worry about a euthanasia market-takeover?

By Xavier Symons

There is endless debate about the ethics of euthanasia. Yet even if one sets aside principled objections to the procedure, there are still contextual risks to introducing new medical interventions into a medical market-economy. We can never set aside the risk of a “market takeover.”

Writing in ABC Religion and Ethics, Daniel Fleming from St. Vincent’s Health Australia explores the risks of market forces undermining attempts to regulate euthanasia once it is introduced in a jurisdiction. Citing sources from Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel to Slovenian intellectual Slavoj Zizek, Fleming argues that once medical procedures are introduced into a particular social context, they face the threat of being governed by the ideology of that social context. And for free market economies, the ideology is capitalism:

“…we should consider what the impact of private, for-profit, companies which specialize in the provision of euthanasia might be. Such companies would have as their primary purpose profit or return to share-holders. They would, assumedly, be required to increase business in order to produce better annual results. What would their marketing strategies look like? Who would their target market be?”

Fleming continues:

“Such companies do not currently exist, but for-profit health insurance companies do, and so we should also consider what the proposed legislation might look like from the perspective of an insurance company which is trying to improve its bottom line. Could it be that insurance companies would direct patients toward the cheaper option instead of agreeing to a larger payout for more expensive care?”

These are uncomfortable considerations, but as the author observes, it’s a discussion that legislators considering euthanasia need to have.

Editor’s note. This appeared at Bioedge and is reposted with permission.