When do caregivers ignore the veil of ignorance? An empirical study on medical triage decision–making

Azgad Gold, Binyamin Greenberg, Rael Strous, Oren Asman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In principle, all patients deserve to receive optimal medical treatment equally. However, in situations in which there is scarcity of time or resources, medical treatment must be prioritized based on a triage. The conventional guidelines of medical triage mandate that treatment should be provided based solely on medical necessity regardless of any non-medical value-oriented considerations (“worst-first”). This study empirically examined the influence of value-oriented considerations on medical triage decision–making. Participants were asked to prioritize medical treatment relating to four case scenarios of an emergency situation resulting from a car collision. The cases differ by situational characteristics pertaining to the at-fault driver, which were related to culpability attribution. In three case scenarios most participants gave priority to the most severely injured individual, unless the less severely injured individual was their brother. Nevertheless, in the aftermath of a vehicle-ramming terror attack most participants prioritized the less severely injured individual (“victim-first”). Our findings indicate that when caregivers are presented with concrete highly conflictual triage situations their choices may be based on value-oriented considerations related to contextual characteristics of the emergency situation. Philosophical and practical ramifications of our findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-225
Number of pages13
JournalMedicine, Health Care and Philosophy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Blame attribution
  • Decision making
  • Medical ethics
  • Resource allocation
  • Terror
  • Triage

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Education
  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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