In their daily clinical work, healthcare professionals generally apply what seems to be a double standard for the responsibility of patients. On the one hand, patients are encouraged to take responsibility for lifestyle changes that can improve their chances of good health. On the other hand, when patients fail to follow such recommendations, they are not held responsible for the failure. This seeming inconsistency is explained in terms of the distinction between task responsibility and blame responsibility. The double standard for responsibility is shown to be epistemologically rational, ethically commendable, and therapeutically advantageous. However, this non-blaming approach to patient responsibility is threatened by proposals to assign lower priority in healthcare to patients who are themselves responsible for their disease. Such responsibility-based priority setting requires that physicians assign blame responsibility to their patients, a practice that would run into conflict with the ethical foundations of the patient–physician relationship. Therefore, such proposals should be rejected.
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