Institutt for filosofi og førstesemesterstudier

Saving People from the Harm of Death

Boken er redigert av Espen Gamlund og Carl Tollef Solberg og har forord av Jeff McMahan.


  • This is the first philosophical volume on the evaluation of deaths with implications for bioethics, population health, and health policy
  • Tackles how to evaluate deaths in the contexts of global health and health priorities, and how to monitor sustainable development goals
  • Challenges received notions on infant mortality, widening discussions to include stillbirths and newborn deaths
  • Explores the difficult correlation between age and the badness of death



Death is something we mourn or fear as the worst thing that could happen—whether the deaths of close ones, the deaths of strangers in reported accidents or tragedies, or our own. And yet, being dead is something that no one can experience and live to describe. This simple truth raises a host of difficult philosophical questions about the negativity surrounding our sense of death, and how and for whom exactly it is harmful. The question of whether death is bad has occupied philosophers for centuries, and the debate emerging in philosophical literature is referred to as the "badness of death." Are deaths primarily negative for the survivors, or does death also affect the deceased? What are the differences between death in fetal life, just after birth, or in adolescence? In order to properly evaluate deaths in global health, we must find answers to these questions.

In this volume, leading philosophers, medical doctors, and economists discuss different views on how to evaluate death and its relevance for health policy. This includes theories about the harm of death and its connections to population-level bioethics. For example, one of the standard views in global health is that newborn deaths are among the worst types of death, yet stillbirths are neglected. This raises difficult questions about why birth is so significant, and several of the book's authors challenge this standard view. 

This is the first volume to connect philosophical discussions on the harm of death with discussions on population health, adjusting the ways in which death is evaluated. Changing these evaluations has consequences for how we prioritize different health programs that affect individuals at different ages, as well as how we understand inequality in health.

Table of Content

Table of content

Foreword by Jeff McMahan
Introduction: Perspectives on Evaluating Deaths and their Relevance to Health Policy
Espen Gamlund & Carl Tollef Solberg
PART I Policy 
1. Quantifying the Harm of Death
Erik Nord
2. The Badness of Death: Implications for Summary Measures and Fair Priority Setting in Health
Ole Frithjof Norheim
3. Life Years at Stake: Justifying and Modelling Acquisition of Life-Potential for DALYs
Andreas Mogensen
4. Putting a Number on the Harm of Death
Joseph Millum
5. Age, Death and the Allocation of Life-Saving Resources
Espen Gamlund
PART II Theory
6. Epicurean Challenges to the Disvalue of Death
Carl Tollef Solberg
7. The Badness of Dying Early
John Broome
8. Early Death and Later Suffering
Jeff McMahan
9. A Gradualist View About the Badness of Death
Ben Bradley
10. The Badness of Death and What to Do About It (if Anything)
F. M. Kamm
11. Deprivation and Identity
Jens Johansson
12. How Death is Bad for us as Agents
Susanne Burri
PART III Population Ethics
13. Against 'the Badness of Death' ?
Hilary Greaves
14. People Aren't Replaceable: Why it's Better to Extend Lives Than to Create New Ones
Michelle Hutchinson
15. The Worseness of Nonexistence
Theron Pummer
PART IV Critical Perspectives
16. The Badness of Death for Us, the Worth in Us, and Priorities in Saving Lives
Samuel J. Kerstein
17. How Much Better Than Death is Ordinary Survival
Ivar R. Labukt
18. Healthcare Rationing and the Badness of Death: Should Newborns Count for Less?
Timothy Campbell
19. A Defense of the Time-Relative Interest Account: A Response to Campbell
Jeff McMahan

Author Information

Author Information

Edited by Espen Gamlund, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Bergen, Edited by Carl Tollef Solberg, Researcher, University of Bergen, and Foreword by Jeff McMahan, White's Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Oxford

Espen Gamlund is professor of philosophy at the University of Bergen, Norway. He specializes in moral philosophy and bioethics, and has published work on forgiveness, moral status of animals, death, and resource allocation in health. In addition, he has published on the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza. Gamlund also runs a philosophy blog (in Norwegian), and in 2015 he won The Faculty of Humanities' prize for his research dissemination. Carl Tollef Solberg is a philosopher and medical doctor at the University of Bergen and the University of Oslo. He specializes in bioethics and medical ethics and has published work on priority setting in health care, death, and medical ethics. Further, he has worked at several clinical levels of the health care system. His research interests stand at the intersection of medicine and philosophy.

Ben Bradley, Syracuse University, Allan and Anita Sutton Professor of Philosophy and Department Chair
John Broome, University of Oxford, Emeritus White's Professor of Moral Philosophy, and Australian National University, Adjunct Professor
Susanne Burri, London School of Economics, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Timothy Campbell, Institute for Futures Studies, and Stockholm University
Espen Gamlund, University of Bergen, Professor of Philosophy
Hilary Greaves, University of Oxford, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Global Priorities Institute at the University of Oxford
Michelle Hutchinson, Giving What We Can, Executive Director
Jens Johansson, Uppsala University, Associate Professor of Philosophy
F. M. Kamm, Harvard University, Professor of Philosophy
Samuel J. Kerstein, University of Maryland, Professor of Philosophy
Ivar Russøy Labukt, The Arctic University of Tromsø, Associate Professor of Philosophy
Jeff McMahan, University of Oxford
Joseph Millum, Clinical Center Department of Bioethics & Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health
Andreas Mogensen, University of Oxford, Associate Professor of Philosophy
Erik Nord, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Senior researcher, and Department of Pharmacy, University of Oslo
Ole Frithjof Norheim, University of Bergen, medical doctor, Professor of Medical Ethics, and Harvard University, Adjunct Professor of Global Health and Population
Theron Pummer, University of St. Andrews, Lecturer in Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs
Carl Tollef Solberg, University of Bergen