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A questionnaire relating to attitudes towards setting economic priorities within the health care system was sent to all 151 general practitioners in Northern Norway. Of these, 109 (72 per cent) responded. Ninety-six per cent of the respondents agreed or partly agreed that the setting of economic priorities within the health care system was necessary. Ninety-three per cent had experienced a conflict between their responsibility towards the individual patient and the requirement for them to manage the health budget. The responses suggest that doctors act more in the interests of their patient than the interests of society. However, 68 per cent reported having refrained from giving the best treatment to patients because it was too expensive. As many as 60 per cent of the respondents wanted more public guidelines. Only 10 per cent wanted doctors to have more influence in difficult questions arising from setting priorities.