Drinking in the last chance saloon: luck egalitarianism, alcohol consumption, and the organ transplant waiting list

Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 19 (2):325-338 (2016)
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The scarcity of livers available for transplants forces tough choices upon us. Lives for those not receiving a transplant are likely to be short. One large group of potential recipients needs a new liver because of alcohol consumption, while others suffer for reasons unrelated to their own behaviour. Should the former group receive lower priority when scarce livers are allocated? This discussion connects with one of the most pertinent issues in contemporary political philosophy; the role of personal responsibility in distributive justice. One prominent theory of distributive justice, luck egalitarianism, assesses distributions as just if, and only if, people's relative positions reflect their exercises of responsibility. There is a principled luck egalitarian case for giving lower priority to those who are responsible for their need. Compared to the existing literature favouring such differentiation, luck egalitarianism provides a clearer rationale of fairness, acknowledges the need for individual assessments of responsibility, and requires initiatives both inside and outside of the allocation systems aimed at mitigating the influence from social circumstances. Furthermore, the concrete policies that luck egalitarians can recommend are neither too harsh on those who make imprudent choices nor excessively intrusive towards those whose exercises of responsibility are assessed.

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Andreas Albertsen
Aarhus University


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