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Setting Health-Care PrioritiesWhat Ethical Theories Tell Us$
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Torbjörn Tännsjö

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190946883

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190946883.001.0001

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Some Controversial Implications of the Three Theories

Some Controversial Implications of the Three Theories

Chapter:
(p.54) 6 Some Controversial Implications of the Three Theories
Source:
Setting Health-Care Priorities
Author(s):

Torbjörn Tännsjö

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190946883.003.0006

Utilitarianism, the maximin/leximin theory, egalitarianism, and prioritarianism all come with, on the face of it, plausible rationales. However, these theories are inconsistent with one another, so they cannot all be true. It is of note, also, that each of them comes with some problematic implications. In particular, according to utilitarianism there are fewer reasons to extend the life of an unhappy person than the life of a happy person. Hence it has been thought to discriminate against disability. On the maximin/leximin theory, on the other hand, those who are worst off may seem to have a morally legitimate claim on all the good things in life (they become what is here nicknamed as ‘utility thieves’). Egalitarianism implies that levelling down to a situation where everyone is on the same low level of happiness means, at least in one respect, an improvement. Moreover, egalitarianism is insensitive in relation to momentary suffering. Prioritarianism does take suffering seriously, but apart from this it shares the standard problems with utilitarianism, which is only to be expected, since it is here seen as a mere amendment to utilitarianism.

Keywords:   disability, utility thieves, levelling down, complacency with regard to suffering

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