Contractualist age rationing under outbreak circumstances

Bioethics 35 (3):229-236 (2020)
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Abstract

Age rationing is a central issue in the health care priority‐setting literature, but it has become ever more salient in the light of the Covid‐19 outbreak, where health authorities in several countries have given higher priority to younger over older patients. But how is age rationing different under outbreak circumstances than under normal circumstances, and what does this difference imply for ethical theories? This is the topic of this paper. The paper argues that outbreaks such as that of Covid‐19 involve special circumstances that change how age should influence our prioritization decisions, and that while this shift in circumstances poses a problem for consequentialist views such as utilitarianism and age‐weighted consequentialism, contractualism is better equipped to cope with it. The paper then offers a contractualist prudential account of age rationing under outbreak circumstances.

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Lasse Nielsen
Palacky University

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