Why Health Matters to Justice: A Capability Theory Perspective

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (2):403-415 (2015)
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The capability approach, originated by Amartya Sen is among the most comprehensive and influential accounts of justice that applies to issues of health and health care. However, although health is always presumed as an important capability in Sen’s works, he never manages to fully explain why health is distinctively valuable. This paper provides an explanation. It does this by firstly laying out the general capability-based argument for health justice. It then discusses two recent attempts to justify why health is distinctively valuable from within a capability framework – these are Sridhar Venkatapuram’s conception of health as the central human meta-capability and, respectively, Norman Daniels’ embrace of the capability metric in his use of Rawls’ principle of fair equality of opportunity. The paper argues that none of these accounts succeed in providing a plausible justification of the value of health. Finally, the paper suggests an alternative more complex justification, closely tied to different but central element of the capability view, that captures the core intuitions of both Venkatapuram and Daniels’ accounts but without being vulnerable to the objections raised against each of them. This, the paper concludes, provides a promising ground on which the capability view on health justice should be founded



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Lasse Nielsen
Palacky University

References found in this work

What is the point of equality.Elizabeth Anderson - 1999 - Ethics 109 (2):287-337.
Just Health: Meeting Health Needs Fairly.Norman Daniels - 2007 - Cambridge University Press.
Inequality Reexamined.Amartya Sen - 1927 - Oxford University Press UK.
Equality and equal opportunity for welfare.Richard J. Arneson - 1989 - Philosophical Studies 56 (1):77 - 93.

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