Putting a number on the harm of death

In Espen Gamlund & Carl Tollef Solberg (eds.), Saving People from the Harm of Death. Oxford University Press. pp. 61-75 (2019)
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Abstract

Donors to global health programs and policymakers within national health systems have to make difficult decisions about how to allocate scarce health care resources. Principled ways to make these decisions all make some use of summary measures of health, which provide a common measure of the value (or disvalue) of morbidity and mortality. They thereby allow comparisons between health interventions with different effects on the patterns of death and ill health within a population. The construction of a summary measure of health requires that a number be assigned to the harm of death. But the harm of death is currently a matter of debate: different philosophical theories assign very different values to the harm of death at different ages. This chapter considers how we should assign numbers to the harm of deaths at different ages in the face of uncertainty and disagreement.

Author's Profile

Joseph Millum
University of St. Andrews

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