Against "the badness of death"

In Espen Gamlund & Carl Tollef Solberg (eds.), Saving People from the Harm of Death. Oxford, USA: Oxford University Press (2019)
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I argue that excessive reliance on the notion of “the badness of death” tends to lead theorists astray when thinking about healthcare prioritisation. I survey two examples: the confusion surrounding the “time-relative interests account” of the badness of death, and a confusion in the recent literature on cost-benefit analyses for family planning interventions. In both cases, the confusions in question would have been avoided if (instead of attempting to theorise in terms of the badness of death) theorists had forced themselves first to write down an appropriate value function, and then focused on the question of how to maximize value.

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Hilary Greaves
Oxford University


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