Can We Measure the Harm (or Benefit) of Death?
I aim to show that the common idea according to which we can assess the badness of death in personal terms, that is, in terms of how bad death is for the person who dies, relies on numerous dubious premises. We cannot measure the badness of death for the person who dies. I will make explicit certain assumptions that pertain to the alleged level of badness of death, for instance when it is asserted that death is worse for a child than for an old person. The most important assumption I will address is the assignment of a quantitative value of zero to death, which leads to the conclusion that there are lives not worth living.
Thomas Schramme is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Liverpool. He has published widely in the philosophy of medicine and psychiatry, mainly on the concepts of health and disease. He also specialises in moral psychology and political philosophy. Most recently he has published the textbook Theories of Health Justice (Rowman & Littlefield Int.). He has edited several collections of essays, for instance Being Amoral: Psychopathy and Moral Incapacity (MIT Press, 2014) and the Handbook of the Philosophy of Medicine (co-edited with Steven Edwards; Springer 2017). His interest in the philosophy of death and meaning in life mainly stems from earlier work on suicide and theories of wellbeing.