The piece begins, “The limited resources of medicine are increasingly being diverted to alter healthy bodies to boost one’s inner satisfaction, or for non-medical purposes such as cosmetic (as opposed to reconstructive) purposes.”
My first reaction is to recoil: Obviously, the scarce resources of medicine should be used to help the sick before they are used to serve the questionable interests of the well. But what seems obvious at first is not really so.
Should scarcity motivate our thinking in such matters? For example, does a woman in Idaho who gets a facelift cause a child in Viet Nam to forego treatment for coronavirus? It is easy to imagine how things might work out that way, but we can just as easily imagine unrelated processes that obscure or override any practical connection between such distant events. The best we can say for certain is: Maybe so, maybe not.
To establish moral certainty we might propose a rule: Medical resources shall only be used to heal the sick. But then, too, problems arise. How would such a rule be enforced? Who would enforce it? When disputes over enforcement arise, how would they be resolved?
Finally, experience teaches us there will always be doctors who specialize in diseases of the rich. How should we suppress the tendency; is it even possible to suppress it?
In light of these considerations I’m at a loss to say what the best response to the use of medical resources for non-medical purposes might be.
But more important than all of that, the puzzle at hand represents a type of problem that is increasingly common in our age: a problem for which there is simply is not enough information to make understanding possible. We stumble upon problems of this type every day.