Gamlund & Solberg: When is the worst time to die? The relevance of badness of death to health priorities

It is a fact about our world that there are not enough medical resources for everyone who needs it. Given this, the question is how we should distribute scarce medical resources. The purpose of this paper is to consider the relevance of philosophical theories on the badness of death for health priorities. We outline and discuss three central theories on the badness of death, and show their implications for priority setting in health: Epicurus’ account, the Deprivation Account, and the Time-Relative Interest Account (TRIA). We argue that these theories are important to priority setting in health for three main reasons: 1) they can serve to strengthen a particular policy of prioritization; 2) they indicate something about which values are most central to priority setting, and 3) they add important perspectives in the discussion on the weighing of future health benefits for different age groups. We conclude that the proposed theories on the badness of death are relevant to priority setting in health, and that a further discussion is needed to determine how they can be implemented in a system of health prioritization.

Keywords: death, ethics, health priorities, values, Epicurus, Deprivation Account, Time-Relative Interest Account