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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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Early Death and Later Suffering

Early Death and Later Suffering

(p.116) 8 Early Death and Later Suffering
Saving People from the Harm of Death

Jeff McMahan

Oxford University Press

In this chapter I sketch an account of the misfortune of death for which I have previously argued (the Time-Relative Interest Account) and defend it against objections advanced by John Broome in his contribution to this book. I then consider other objections and suggest the beginnings of responses to them. The general conclusion I draw is that issues about our continuing to exist cannot be separated from issues about our beginning to exist and that we therefore cannot fully understand certain issues raised by death without understanding certain deeply intractable issues in population ethics. I suggest, in particular, that a promising way forward is to accept a view about harming and benefiting that has its source in population ethics (either the familiar Asymmetry about procreation or, more plausibly in my view, a Weak Asymmetry) and to restrict the scope of the Time-Relative Interest Account so that it applies only to the conferral of what I call noncomparative benefits and not to the infliction of suffering or other intrinsic harms.

Keywords:   abortion, actualism, death, Deprivation Account, John Broome, Life Comparative Account, population ethics, prenatal injury, the Asymmetry, Time-Relative Interest Account

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