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Therac-25 Case

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Equity and Access

Equity and access issues are also raised by this case. The whole point of the design of Therac-25 was to make a medical linear accelerator that was less expensive to produce and thus likely less expensive (and more available) to consumers. This is often an effect of the free market on the price of technology. If AECL could make a less expensive, but equally useful linear accelerator, it would sell more of them and they would be more easily available to the public. AECL would, doubtless, make money in the process. This is Adam Smith’s invisible hand at work: decisions to make a better, less expensive product are good both for the manufacturer and for the consumer.

On the other hand, increasing regulation and oversight will imposes increasing costs on providers of medical devices. These regulations may be seen as necessary, given the track record of companies like AECL. But they still increase the development costs to the company and the cost of the product. This, in turn, reduces the availability of the devices.

Again, we have here an issue of balance between competing goods: safety of the consumer and the increased access of the consumer to life-saving medical technology.

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