Format of Original
Cambridge University Press
Journal of Institutional Economics
Standard health economics concentrates on the provision of care by medical professionals. Yet ‘care’ receives scant analysis; it is portrayed as a spillover effect or externality in the form of interdependent utility functions. In this context care can only be conceived as either acts of altruism or as social capital. Both conceptions are subject to considerable problems stemming from mainstream health economics’ reliance on a reductionist social model built around instrumental rationality and consequentialism. Subsequently, this implies a disregard for moral rules and duties and the compassionate aspects of behaviour. Care as an externality is a second-order concern relative to self-interested utility maximization, and is therefore crowded out by the parameters of the standard model. We outline an alternative relational approach to conceptualising care based on the social embeddedness of the individual that emphasises the ethical properties of care. The deontological dimension of care suggests that standard health economics is likely to undervalue the importance of care and caring in medicine.