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Values in Health Care: Choices and Conflicts

Benjamin S. Wilfond, MD
JAMA. 1993;269(19):2559-2560. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500190103048.
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With family values an issue in the 1992 presidential campaign, values have fully emerged in the national spotlight. However, as many political commentators have noted, appeals to values are not always useful in resolving social and ethical issues. Such appeals often do not help determine how to choose between values when these values conflict. Nor do they clarify whose values to use or who should decide whose values are important in resolving the issue at hand.

Looking to values to solve ethical, legal, and social dilemmas within health care may be subject to the same pitfalls as in the political context. However, this does not mean that values have no role in health care. The exercise of identifying underlying values can be useful in clarifying whether a dilemma is based on a conflict of factual information or of values, although at times whether something is a fact or value may


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