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Critical Analysis of “Fair Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources in the time of COVID-19”

Table of Contents


A brief discussion with three key issues

Ethical concepts

Economic concepts

Critique of economic issues/ethical issues




Ethics can be defined as the moral principles that are concerned with what is moral for the people and society. Human dignity can be defined as the social concept that entails society to respect the equivalent value of all the people irrespective of masculinity and communal or economic standing (Pless, Maak & Harris, 2017). The economic decisions are those decisions that are concerned with the situation where individuals have to decide what to do in the presence of scarce resources. The important thing is that ethical values and human dignity play an essential role in taking economic decisions. This report is set to critically analyze an article related to ethics and human dignity in economic decisions. This report analyzes the article named "Fair Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources in the time of COVID-19" by discussing the key issues, ethical concepts, and economics concepts.

A Brief Discussion with Three Key Issues

This paper is about the ongoing crisis of COVID-19 that is a pandemic and affecting almost all countries of the world. Today, there is a rising demand for health organizations and the sources of vital communal services. The article entails the discussion about the allocation of the medicinal interventions and the apparatus. The key issues that are identified in the article are that there is a promptly rising inequality between the demand and supply for the medicinal assets in numerous nations. The country South Korea faced a challenge of shortage of beds in the hospital while the united kingdom, there was a shortage of shielding gear necessities for the health workers. Besides, the United States faced a problem of lack of N-95 safety masks for the doctors.

Another issue was that besides of wide range of facilities in respect of the healthcare system in countries, the COVID-19 virus is causing a scarcity of hospital beds, ventilators, and ICU beds. Moreover, it is affecting the convenience of medical staff as even the doctors and nurses are ill. The serious medical provisions and apparatus like individual protective equipment are already threatened which presents the risk that medicinal workers' time will itself turn into limited as nurses and doctors become contaminated.

The third issue was that technical and administrative catastrophes in the United States have directed to a determined shortage of tests. This is because, with the increase in the number of countries in terms of COVID-19 infection globally, the demand for the test has been intensively growing that exceeding production. The three identified issue is all based on the scarcity of the resources in this time but the question is how to allocate the resources ethically so that this economic problem of scarcity could be solved efficiently.

Ethical Concepts

Four ethical values are demonstrated in this article namely exploiting the assistance created by limited resources, handling people likewise, supporting & satisfying influential worth, and giving importance to the poorest. The first moral value that is exploiting the benefits created by scarce resources means that saving most people's existence or saving the most survival period by giving significance to patients expected to continue lengthiest after getting treatment. The second ethical value that is handling people equally can be endeavored by casual selection like on the first-come basis, first-served allocation, and more.

The third ethical value that is supporting & satisfying influential value that can be endorsed by giving importance to those who can save others or satisfied by giving importance to those who have protected others in history. The fourth ethical value is giving importance to the worst of meaning that giving importance either to the vilest or to younger individuals who will have survived the shortest lives if they expire untreated. As per these ethical values, there are 6 commendations for the distribution of medicinal resources in the COVID-19 crisis. These commendations are as follows:

  • Maximizing benefits: It signifies the importance of responsible governance of resources. The aim while prioritizing the limited resources must be both for protecting the most survives and at exploiting the developments in persons’ post-treatment duration of life.
  • Prioritize health workers: The ethical responsibility is that the serious COVID-19 mediations like ICU beds, ventilators, vaccines, and more must be first given to the health upkeep staff and those who upkeep for sick patients not because they are worthy but because of their contributory value.
  • Don’t allocate on a first-served or first-come basis: The first come first served approach is not suitable for the case of Covid-19 as it can create violence among people to get treatment. Hence, it is commendable that random selection would work better in the presence of limited information and time.
  • Be responsive to evidence: It signifies that the treatment must be given instantly to the older patients due to their weak immune system and they are more prone to death from this disease as per the evidence. At the time of limited vaccine supplies for the riskiest age group that is above 60, then the allocation can be based on the random selection.
  • Identify research participation: This principle says that the individuals who contribute to the investigation to prove the security and efficiency of vaccines must be given certain priority for the mediations of COVID-19.
  • Apply similar principles on Covid-19 infected or disinfected patients: This principle says that unbiased distribution of resources that highlights the worth of exploiting benefits relates to all the infected people who require resources like cancer, heart failure, COVID-19, and other patients.

Economic Concepts

The economics concepts that are demonstrated in the article are scarcity of resources and imbalance between the demand and supply.

Scarcity: This is one of the important concepts of economics and business. In general, scarcity means the limited availability of resources that are typically available for use. In economics terms, it means the gap between insufficient resources and the theoretic needs people have for these resources (Penn, 2019). This situation of scarcity forces people to think about how to allocate scarce resources efficiently so that the needs and wants of the entire population could be fulfilled. In the case of this article, there are both scarce goods and services in the form of a shortage of health care workers, ICU beds, safety masks, ventilators, and more.

The imbalance between demand and supply: The articles showed the imbalance between demand and supply as there is more demand for the services of doctors, equipment, masks, and more but the supply of all these are limited in this serious time of COVID-19. The economics concept says that the quantity of goods/ services demanded must be equal to the number of goods supplied in the case of equilibrium. This situation has created a demand induced scarcity in the world that can be defined as when the demand for a specific service/product extremely surpasses the supply that the country is capable to provide (Zhang et al, 2017).

Critique of Economic Issues/ Ethical Issues

There can occur ethical issues in terms of allocation of medical resources for COVID-19, however, if the six commendations described above are kept in mind, the things would not go wrong. Everyone is given priority as per the moral values like there is no discrimination for a first come first served basis. The most important thing to avoid the ethical issues in allocation is that guidelines from these commendations must be delivered at the upper level of expertise, both to lessen physical liability and to certify equal treatment. The problem is that this is still unknown how much balance to give each value in specific cases.

Due to this, there is a need for reasonable and reliable distribution events that comprise the affected individuals like clinicians, public representatives, patients, more. All this is required so that processes can be made transparent for the people and to ensure the people’s trust in their justice. The guidelines may help physicians not to face the terrible task of improvising decisions in respect of the allocation of resources. However, these guidelines can be challenging in the COVID-19 crisis that is to be implemented in real-time.


From the above article critique on the rational allocation of medical limited resources at the time of COVID-19, it can be concluded that there is a promptly rising inequality between the supply and demand for the medicinal resources in numerous nations. Moreover, the COVID-19 virus is causing a scarcity of hospital beds, ventilators, and ICU beds. The ethical values that are shown in this article are exploiting the assistance created by limited resources, handling individuals likewise, supporting & satisfying influential worth, and giving importance to the poorest. Furthermore, the economics concepts use here is the scarcity of resources and the imbalance between supply and demand.


Emanuel, E. J., Persad, G., Upshur, R., Thome, B., Parker, M., Glickman, A., ... & Phillips, J. P. (2020). Fair allocation of scarce medical resources in the time of Covid-19.

Penn, W. M. (2019). Teaching Introductory Microeconomics—The Full Treatment. Christian Business Academy Review, 14(1).

Pless, N. M., Maak, T., & Harris, H. (2017). Art, ethics, and the promotion of human dignity. Journal of Business Ethics, 144(2), 223-232.

Zhang, Z., Gao, J., Fan, X., Lan, Y., & Zhao, M. (2017). The response of ecosystem services to socioeconomic development in the Yangtze River Basin, China. Ecological Indicators, 72, 481-493.

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