The Severity of Death

In John K. Davis (ed.), Ethics at the End of Life: New Issues and Arguments. Routledge. pp. 61-73 (2017)

Jens Johansson
Uppsala University
Just as some illnesses and injuries are worse than others, so some deaths appear to be worse than others. This is so not only for the fairly trivial reason that those deaths that are bad are worse than those deaths that are not bad: less trivially, some bad deaths seem to be worse than other bad deaths. For instance, whereas it may well be bad for an eighty-year-old to die, it is likely to be even worse for a forty-year-old, and still worse for a twenty-year-old. Supposing that the badness of death does indeed vary in this way, what factor or factors does it vary *with*? The example just given indicates that age is one such factor: in particular, the earlier one’s death occurs, the worse it is. For a number of reasons, however, things are more complicated—though not quite as complicated as some philosophers have suggested.
Keywords badness of death  psychological unity  preemption  harm
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