Taking societal cost into clinical consideration: U.S. physicians’ views

Alissa R. Stavig, Hyo Jung Tak, John D. Yoon, Farr A. Curlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Recent campaigns (e.g., the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation’s Choosing Wisely) reflect the increasing role that physicians are expected to have in stewarding health care resources. We examine whether physicians believe they should pay attention to societal costs or refuse requests for costly interventions with little chance of patient benefit. Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis of data from a 2010 national survey of 2016 U.S. physicians sampled from the AMA Physician Masterfile. Criterion measures were agreement or disagreement with two survey items related to costs of care. We also examined whether physicians’ practice and religious characteristics were associated with their responses. Results: The adjusted response rate was 62% (1156/1878). Forty-seven percent of physicians agreed that physicians “should not consider the societal cost of medical care when caring for individual patients,” whereas 69% agreed that physicians “should refuse requests from patients or their families for costly interventions that have little chance of benefitting the patient.” Physicians in specialties that care for patients at the end of life were more supportive of refusing such costly interventions. We did not find consistent associations between physicians’ religiosity and their responses to these items, though those least supportive of taking into account societal cost were disproportionately from Christian affiliations. Conclusion: Physicians were nearly evenly divided regarding whether they should help control societal costs when caring for individual patients, but a strong majority agreed that physicians should refuse costly interventions that have little chance of benefit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-180
Number of pages8
JournalAJOB Empirical Bioethics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2018


  • Rationing
  • national survey
  • religion
  • societal costs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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