A new book review by Center Professor Dr. Leonard Fleck has been published in the September/October 2017 Hastings Center Report. Titled “Despairing about Health Disparities,” Dr. Fleck reviews the book Understanding Health Inequalities and Justice: New Conversations across the Disciplines, edited by Mara Buchbinder, Michele Rivkin-Fish, and Rebecca Walker (University of North Carolina Press, 2016).
Abstract: I have never doubted that the problem of inequalities in health status and access to needed care is a difficult ethical and political challenge. After reading the essays in Understanding Health Inequalities and Justice: New Conversations across the Disciplines, edited by Mara Buchbinder, Michele Rivkin-Fish, and Rebecca Walker, I concluded that despair was the only suitable response in the face of daunting ethical and political complexity. The editors of this volume have three questions in mind that they asked contributors to address. (1) How do scholars from various disciplines approach relations between health inequalities and ideals of justice? Social scientists want to offer empirical descriptions of inequalities in health status across a range of social groups, but there are numerous ways of offering such descriptions. Are they all “correct”? Philosophers and medical ethicists want to make normative judgments regarding which inequalities matter, ethically speaking. So (2) do we need to know when considerations of justice are relevant to assessing health inequalities and which considerations of justice are most relevant in specific contexts? Ultimately, (3) the question is which of these scholarly approaches is most useful for improving health policy.
The full text is available via Wiley Online Library (MSU Library or other institutional access may be required to view this article).