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How do people balance death against lesser burdens?

Luptakova, Veronika and Voorhoeve, Alex (2023) How do people balance death against lesser burdens? In: Lindauer, M., (ed.) Advances in Experimental Political Philosophy. Bloomsbury (Firm), London, UK, pp. 123-158.

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Identification Number: 10.5040/


Suppose one can fully alleviate either the very large individual health burdens of a first group or instead the significantly lesser burdens of a second group that is at least as numerous. In such cases, the most commonly applied principles for priority setting in health have two characteristics. First, when both groups are equally large, they prioritize alleviating the plight of the more severely burdened. Second, when both groups differ in size, these common principles are unlimited in their aggregation: one very large burden can be outweighed not merely by a large number of middling burdens, but also by a sufficiently large number of very minor burdens. While priority for the significantly more severely burdened when group sizes are equal is uncontroversial, many thinkers have challenged unlimited aggregation. There is, however, little evidence on the public’s views. Here, we examine the responses to priority setting dilemmas of a representative sample of the UK population (n = 389). We find that an overwhelming majority of respondents’ views do not align with commonly used priority setting principles. A substantial share (forty-four per cent) of respondents do not always prioritize by severity when group sizes are equal. Moreover, among those who do prioritize by severity, most reject unlimited aggregation. A test for the influence of the assumed status quo did not yield a robust effect. Overall, our findings suggest that public support for commonly employed priority-setting principles cannot be assumed, and that unorthodox principles that place limits on the ability of very small burdens to outweigh very large ones may be more popular.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: © 2022 The Authors
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Date Deposited: 18 Aug 2022 07:15
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 05:57

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