Pandemic Prioritarianism

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Abstract

Prioritarianism pertains to the generic idea that it matters more to benefit people, the worse off they are. And while prioritarianism is not uncontroversial, it is considered a generally plausible and widely shared distributive principle often applied to health care prioritization. In this paper, I identify social justice prioritarianism, severity prioritarianism, and age-weighted prioritarianism as three different interpretations of the general prioritarian idea and discuss them in light of the effect of pandemic consequences on health care priority setting. Upon this analysis, the paper arrives at the following three conclusions: 1) that we have strong prioritarian reasons for special concern about the vulnerable and socially disadvantaged in reference to pandemic effects, 2) that severity of illness is an important factor in identifying the worse off in priority setting, but that this must not override the special priority to the socially disadvantaged, and 3) that the maximization rationale of the age-weighted view runs against the core prioritarian idea, and the age-weighted prioritarianism is thus unfitting as a prioritarian response to the Covid-19 case.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Medical Ethics
ISSN0306-6800
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

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