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Saving People from the Harm of Death$
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Espen Gamlund and Carl Tollef Solberg

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190921415

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190921415.001.0001

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Against “the Badness of Death”

Against “the Badness of Death”

(p.189) 13 Against “the Badness of Death”
Saving People from the Harm of Death

Hilary Greaves

Oxford University Press

It is tempting for health care analysts to theorize about the value of life-saving in terms of the “badness of death.” This move is innocuous in principle, but in practice it tends to lead theorists seriously astray. The problems arise because the concept of “badness” has several very different natural interpretations, and it proves notoriously difficult to keep the focus on the relevant ones. By way of illustration, this chapter surveys two particular such mistakes that (I will argue) philosophers and health care analysts have made. The first occurs in the context of Jeff McMahan’s Time-Relative Interest Account of the badness of death. The second concerns the value of family planning interventions. The mistakes in question would both be avoided if the debates were reframed in terms of the maximization of an appropriately chosen overall value function, eschewing any explicit reference to badness.

Keywords:   axiology, badness of death, family planning, time-relative interests, population ethics

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