Should research into expensive medical treatments be allowed when only a few can afford them?

YES: There are various justifiable grounds to conduct and promote research into expensive medical treatments exclusive to the well-off.

  1. Medical treatments may initially beexpensive and exclusive as a result of their advanced nature but rapid developments in technology will lower their cost to affordable levels for the masses, making their initial research and development both practical and justifiable.

  2. Regardless of the cost, medical researchers have a moral duty to develop cures for diseases and should do so even if treatments are expensive.

  3. Payments by poor patients can be subsidized by public funding or expenditure, which is a matter of debate over proper governance rather than merits of medical research in itself.

  4. Some forms of medical treatment may be elective in nature, such as cosmetic surgery, with their research and treatment costs being determined by economic forces rather than ethical considerations.

  5. Society will benefit more by permitting and regulating such medical research and treatment rather than banning it, which may force practitioners to carry out research and treatment in unsafe conditions if financial incentives prove attractive. 

NO: Conducting and promoting expensive medical treatments exclusive to the well-off cannot be justified on various grounds.

  1. The cost of some expensive medical treatments may not be significantly reduced by improvements in technology, and remain exclusive to the well-off, making the use of scarce research resources, such as specialist doctors and expensive equipment, an unjustifiable expense.

  2. Permitting research into expensive and elective medical treatments exposes society to undesirable social trends, such as obsession with physical perfection, undermining medical ethics and making the banning or limitation of such treatments preferable to regulation which encourages the trend.