The ethics of charging for prescriptions
"The health service can't afford to go on like this. Most must start paying again for their prescriptions." So says Northern Ireland's chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride. I a wide-ranging interview in today's Belfast Telegraph, Dr McBride said anyone who can afford to pay for prescriptions should pay. He also emphasised that "there should never be any circumstance were someone is discouraged from from taking their medication because of prescription charges."
Pay attention to the moral language used by the chief medical officer: anyone who can pay "should" pay. Is Dr McBride suggesting that some people have a moral obligation to pay, even though they do not have a legal obligation to do so (at present)? Or is he making a more strategic, less ethical, point: we "need" people to pay if the NHS is to provide the services people expect?
What do you think? Do people who can afford to pay prescription charges have a moral obligation to pay? What kind of paying regime is consistent with the basic philosophy of the NHS?