The policies of health systems are inspired by ethical priorities. A critical review of policies can reveal the ethical theories/justice schools behind them. This study aimed to identify the ethical theory(ies) underpinning the Iranian health system governance over the past 50 years.

This was a qualitative study conducted in two stages during 2019. First, we identified and constructed the key concepts and distinctive notions of prominent ethical theories/justice schools. Then, we spotted and selected 24 strategic laws and policy documents in the Iranian health system governance during the past 50 years and analyzed their content to surmise their underlying ethical theory.

The results showed that the dominant theory affecting the policies of the Iranian health system governance over the past 50 years was egalitarian liberalism and then objective utilitarianism and relativist communitarianism.

Retrospective empirical application of ethical theories to health system governance is methodologically doable, and this application reveals the mood or priorities of the politics. Also, highlighting the underpinning ethical theories of health system governance as well as the gap between ambitions versus realization are insightful and may prospectively empower and strengthen egalitarianism


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