Why Tolerate the Statistical Victim?
Trachtman, Leon E.
Hastings Center Report. 1985 Feb; 15(1): 14.
The author questions why society argues over the ethical aspects of treating seriously handicapped newborns, but does not expend the same amount of moral energy debating actions that will "doom a statistically predictable number of people to premature death." He cites drug and alcohol abuse, smoking, the use of automobiles and handguns, and war as examples of activities costly in statistical lives that are tolerated and even encouraged. Trachtman identifies two reasons why society expresses more concern over the fate of handicapped infants: the specificity of the victims, and their powerlessness to affect their destiny. Although statistical victims are anonymous, he argues, the utilitarian and moral costs of their lives should be taken into account when public policy decisions are made about risk-taking activities. (KIE abstract)
Alcohol Abuse; Allowing to Die; Congenital Disorders; Death; Evaluation; Health; Infants; Illness; Life; Newborns; Obligations of Society; Public Health; Public Policy; Resource Allocation; Risk; Risks and Benefits; Self Induced Illness; Smoking; Statistics; Traffic Accidents; Utilitarianism; Value of Life; War;
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