Saving People from the Harm of Death

ISBN : 9780190921415

Jeff McMahan
288 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Apr 2019
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Death is something we mourn or fear as the worst thing that could happen-whether the deaths of close ones, the deaths of strangers in reported accidents or tragedies, or our own. And yet, being dead is something that no one can experience and live to describe. This simple truth raises a host of difficult philosophical questions about the negativity surrounding our sense of death, and how and for whom exactly it is harmful. The question of whether death is bad has occupied philosophers for centuries, and the debate emerging in philosophical literature is referred to as the "badness of death." Are deaths primarily negative for the survivors, or does death also affect the deceased? What are the differences between death in fetal life, just after birth, or in adolescence? In order to properly evaluate deaths in global health, we must find answers to these questions. In this volume, leading philosophers, medical doctors, and economists discuss different views on how to evaluate death and its relevance for health policy. This includes theories about the harm of death and its connections to population-level bioethics. For example, one of the standard views in global health is that newborn deaths are among the worst types of death, yet stillbirths are neglected. This raises difficult questions about why birth is so significant, and several of the book's authors challenge this standard view. This is the first volume to connect philosophical discussions on the harm of death with discussions on population health, adjusting the ways in which death is evaluated. Changing these evaluations has consequences for how we prioritize different health programs that affect individuals at different ages, as well as how we understand inequality in health.


Foreword by Jeff McMahan
Introduction: Perspectives on Evaluating Deaths and their Relevance to Health Policy
Espen Gamlund & Carl Tollef Solberg
PART I Policy
1. Quantifying the Harm of Death
Erik Nord
2. The Badness of Death: Implications for Summary Measures and Fair Priority Setting in Health
Ole Frithjof Norheim
3. Life Years at Stake: Justifying and Modelling Acquisition of Life-Potential for DALYs
Andreas Mogensen
4. Putting a Number on the Harm of Death
Joseph Millum
5. Age, Death and the Allocation of Life-Saving Resources
Espen Gamlund
PART II Theory
6. Epicurean Challenges to the Disvalue of Death
Carl Tollef Solberg
7. The Badness of Dying Early
John Broome
8. Early Death and Later Suffering
Jeff McMahan
9. A Gradualist View About the Badness of Death
Ben Bradley
10. The Badness of Death and What to Do About It (if Anything)
F. M. Kamm
11. Deprivation and Identity
Jens Johansson
12. How Death is Bad for us as Agents
Susanne Burri
PART III Population Ethics
13. Against 'the Badness of Death' ?
Hilary Greaves
14. People Aren't Replaceable: Why it's Better to Extend Lives Than to Create New Ones
Michelle Hutchinson
15. The Worseness of Nonexistence
Theron Pummer
PART IV Critical Perspectives
16. The Badness of Death for Us, the Worth in Us, and Priorities in Saving Lives
Samuel J. Kerstein
17. How Much Better Than Death is Ordinary Survival
Ivar R. Labukt
18. Healthcare Rationing and the Badness of Death: Should Newborns Count for Less?
Timothy Campbell
19. A Defense of the Time-Relative Interest Account: A Response to Campbell
Jeff McMahan

About the author: 

Espen Gamlund is professor of philosophy at the University of Bergen, Norway. He specializes in moral philosophy and bioethics, and has published work on forgiveness, moral status of animals, death, and resource allocation in health. In addition, he has published on the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza. Gamlund also runs a philosophy blog (in Norwegian), and in 2015 he won The Faculty of Humanities' prize for his research dissemination. Carl Tollef Solberg is a philosopher and medical doctor at the University of Bergen and the University of Oslo. He specializes in bioethics and medical ethics and has published work on priority setting in health care, death, and medical ethics. Further, he has worked at several clinical levels of the health care system. His research interests stand at the intersection of medicine and philosophy.

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