Center for Bioethics Papers

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

March 1988


There is a specter haunting the American health care system. It is the prospect of widespread chronic illness and disability in an aging society. With it comes a daunting challenge to our health care delivery system, social welfare services, families, and communities. And it presents an equally difficult challenge to millions of us as individuals. For prolonged, slowly debilitating chronic illnesses will most likely be our companions in the twilight of our lives.

At present, it is unclear whether the American health care and social service systems are prepared to cope with the challenges, both financial and ethical, that chronic illness poses to our society. Innovative policy ideas are needed, as are continuing research, extended and better coordinated social senvice programs, and educational programs that will equip health care providers to meet the special needs of persons with chronic illnesses.


© The Hastings Center 1988. Reprinted with permission. This article originally appeared in The Hastings Center Report, Special Supplement: Ethical Challenges of Chronic Illness, Volume 18, Issue 1, March 1988, pages 1-16.
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Date Posted: 18 May 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.