Age and Illness Severity: A Case of Irrelevant Utilities?

Utilitas 34 (2):209-224 (2022)
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Abstract

Illness severity is a priority setting criterion in several countries. Age seems to matter when considering severity, but perhaps not small age differences. In the following article we consider Small Differences : small differences in age are not relevant when considering differential illness severity. We show that SD cannot be accommodated within utilitarian, prioritarian or egalitarian theories. Attempting to accommodate SD by postulating a threshold model becomes exceedingly complex and self-defeating. The only way to accommodate SD seems to be to accept some form of relevance view, where some age differences are irrelevant. This view can accommodate SD, but at the expense of consistent priority orderings. Severity thus becomes unsuitable for systematic decision-making. We argue that SD should be dismissed and that we should accept a continuous relationship between severity of illness and age.

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