Fostering the personal responsibility of patients is often considered a potential remedy for the problem of resource allocation in health care systems. In political and ethical debates, systems of rewards and punishments based on personal responsibility have proved very divisive. However, regardless of the controversies it has sparked, the implementation of personal responsibility in concrete policies has always encountered the problem of practical enforceability, i.e. how causally relevant behaviour can be tracked, allowing policies of this kind to be applied in a fine-grained, economically viable and accurate fashion. In this paper, we show how this hurdle can be seemingly overcome with the advent of digitalisation in health and delineate the potential impact of digitalisation on personal responsibility for health. We discuss how digitalisation – by datafying health and making patients transparent – promises to close the loophole of practical enforceability by allowing to trace health-related lifestyle choices of individuals as well as their exposure to avoidable risk factors. Digitalisation in health care thereby reinforces what Gerald Dworkin has called the causal aspect of personal responsibility and strengthens the implicit syllogism that – since exposure to risk factors happens at the individual level – responsibility for health should be ascribed to the individual. We conclude by addressing the limitations of this approach and suggest that there are other ways in which the potential of digitalisation can help with the allocation of resources in health care.
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