Age and Death: A Defence of Gradualism

Utilitas 27 (3):279-297 (2015)
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Abstract
According to standard comparativist views, death is bad insofar as it deprives someone of goods she would otherwise have had. In The Ethics of Killing, Jeff McMahan argues against such views and in favor of a gradualist account according to which how bad it is to die is a function of both the future goods of which the decedent is deprived and her cognitive development when she dies. Comparativists and gradualists therefore disagree about how bad it is to die at different ages. In this paper I examine two prominent criticisms of gradualism and show that both misconstrue McMahan. I develop a related criticism that seems to show that a gradualist cannot coherently relate morbidity and mortality. This criticism also fails, but has an instructive implication for how policy-makers setting priorities for health care investments should regard choices between life-saving interventions and interventions against non-fatal diseases in the very young.
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First archival date: 2016-08-25
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