Youngest first? Why it’s wrong to discriminate against the elderly in healthcare

Christopher Wareham


In South Africa and abroad the elderly are systematically discriminated against at all levels of healthcare allocation decision-making. Such discrimination is perhaps surprising in light of the National Health Act and the Older Persons Act, which explicitly recognise the elderly as a vulnerable group whose equal rights require special protection. However, ethical theory and public opinion offer some reasons to think that discrimination against the elderly may be justified. This paper examines possible ethical grounds for age discrimination. I claim that there are very few cases in which the aged may be discriminated against, and that age alone is never sufficient grounds for discrimination.

Author's affiliations

Christopher Wareham, Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Ethics; resource allocation; human rights; ageing; ageism; health policy

Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2015;8(1):35. DOI:10.7196/SAJBL.374

Article History

Date submitted: 2014-12-05
Date published: 2015-05-15

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