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 WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Seventy-six percent of healthcare experts say it is unethical to ration healthcare services to the poor, according to a national study of healthcare experts and the general public sponsored by Mercy Healthcare Arizona (MHA) in Phoenix.
 In addition, 71 percent of healthcare experts say that ethical considerations are not being emphasized enough in the healthcare reform effort.
 Joseph J. DeSilva, president and chief executive officer of MHA, announced the results of "The Role of Ethics in Healthcare Reform" today in Washington.
 "The debate on healthcare reform has largely been driven by the issues of cost and access," said DeSilva. "As the administration prepares to unveil its health reform package, we believe this study should become an important part of the decision-making process."
 The three-round study polled medical ethicists, physicians, healthcare administrators and insurers on issues such as access, cost, rationing, reform package elements and societal vs. individual rights.
 Questions in each round of the study were developed based on responses given in the previous rounds. For comparison purposes, a one-time companion survey of the general public also was conducted.
 According to DeSilva, the study allowed healthcare experts the opportunity to answer questions as well as respond to their peers' and the general public's comments, resulting in an in-depth analysis of ethical issues in relation to healthcare reform.
 Major study findings include:
 -- The biggest discrepancy in the views of consumers and healthcare
 experts concerned how important it is to be able to choose
 alternative or natural therapies in addition to traditional
 medical treatments. Eighty-one percent of the general public
 surveyed say they should be able to choose alternative therapies;
 only 54 percent of the experts agree. Seventy-three percent of
 the experts said in the final round that it is ethical to
 disregard consumers' wishes regarding alternative therapies.
 -- Both groups agree that the most important elements of a standard
 benefits package are illness prevention measures.
 -- Healthcare experts and the general public believe it is
 appropriate to have people who engage in unhealthy lifestyles pay
 more toward the cost of their own healthcare.
 -- Almost three-quarters of the experts believe it is ethical to put
 a cap on healthcare for all Americans.
 -- Eighty-two percent of the experts and 65 percent of the general
 public say it is appropriate to give or withhold treatment based
 on a patient's chance of survival.
 -- The American public and healthcare experts agree that improving
 access is a higher priority than controlling cost or maintaining
 and improving the quality of healthcare.
 -- Healthcare experts are divided about whether the Healthcare Task
 Force has approached the redesign of the healthcare system
 ethically, and half of the experts surveyed say that the
 legislative process will result in a less ethical reform package.
 -- The American public believes the rights of individuals should be
 emphasized in a new healthcare system, whereas healthcare experts
 believe the good of society should prevail over individual
 rights. However, healthcare experts say one of the biggest
 concerns about ethics is encouraging individuals to take
 responsibility for their healthcare.
 -- Forty-four percent of Americans surveyed say they are unfamiliar
 with the issues surrounding healthcare reform; however, 77
 percent believe they should have input into the reform process.
 Healthcare experts believe that it is possible to educate the
 public, primarily through television, and that the healthcare
 community and the federal government should be responsible for
 that education.
 Initially, healthcare experts were divided on whether or not healthcare reform was on the right track, but by the third round of the study, experts were less optimistic, with two-thirds stating that healthcare reform is on the wrong track. One-quarter of those experts say that the Task Force was on the wrong track because of the influence of outside lobbying and special interest groups.
 "The divergence of opinion among experts and the American public underscores the complexity of these issues and emphasizes the need for health policy-makers to carefully consider ethical issues as they discuss healthcare reform," DeSilva said.
 The Delphi Study was conducted by The Wirthlin Group in McLean, Va. The consumer portion of the study surveyed 1,022 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent. Round one of the Delphi Study surveyed 200 healthcare experts and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.8 percent.
 Mercy Healthcare Arizona in Phoenix is a division of Catholic Healthcare West, headquartered in San Francisco. MHA includes St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, a 626-bed tertiary care facility; Mercy Integrated Health, a network of primary-care physicians; Mercy Services Corporation-Phoenix, which operates a 236-bed skilled nursing facility and provides home care services; and Southwest Catholic Healthcare Network, which administers a health care plan that is part of Arizona's version of Medicaid.
 St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center has established its leadership in healthcare ethics through a symposium focusing on ethics in healthcare reporting and through sponsorship of two major studies on ethics in healthcare reform.
 -0- 9/13/93
 /CONTACT: Debra Gelbart of St. Joseph's Hospital, 602-285-3054, or Bette Jo Mumford of Hill & Knowlton, 404-249-8550, for Mercy Healthcare Arizona/

CO: Mercy Healthcare Arizona ST: IN: HEA SU:

RA-BN -- AT002 -- 1137 09/13/93 09:05 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Sep 13, 1993

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