The Ethics of Making Risky Decisions for Others

In Mark D. White (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Economics. Oxford University Press. pp. 446-473 (2019)

Luc Bovens
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Utilitarianism, it has been said, is not sensitive to the distribution of welfare. In making risky decisions for others there are multiple sensitivities at work. I present examples of risky decision-making involving drug allocations, charitable giving, breast-cancer screening and C-sections. In each of these examples there is a different sensitivity at work that pulls away from the utilitarian prescription. Instances of saving fewer people at a greater risk to many is more complex because there are two distributional sensitivities at work that pull in opposite directions from the utilitarian calculus. I discuss objections to these sensitivities and conclude with some reflections on the value of formal modelling in thinking about societal risk.
Keywords Utilitarianism  Prioritarianism  Risk  Aggregation Theorem  Parfit  Risk Aversion  Inequality
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References found in this work BETA

Another Defence of the Priority View.Derek Parfit - 2012 - Utilitas 24 (3):399-440.
On Economic Inequality.Amartya Sen - 1997 - Clarendon Press.
Contractualism and Social Risk.Johann Frick - 2015 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 43 (3):175-223.

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Risk and the Unfairness of Some Being Better Off at the Expense of Others.Thomas Rowe - 2019 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 16 (1).

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