Our Alleviation Bias

Halley S. Faust

in Prevention vs. Treatment

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199837373
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919499 | DOI:
Our Alleviation Bias

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It would seem that preventing harm is the superior value over alleviating harm – little disruption from normal life, suffering, repair, or rehabilitation occurs if harm is prevented, whereas waiting to alleviate harm usually incurs psychological, physiological, and anatomical sequelae, rarely permitting us to full restoration of health. In this chapter I look at the Bill/John/Public Health thought experiment asking us to prioritize prevention or treatment in two ways: first through conventional medical professional ethics, and then through empirical psychological and philosophical ethics. Conventional medical ethics cannot give us an answer to the thought experiment. Through a series of thought experiments I examine the concept of compassion and its attendant key component, vividness, and its subcomponents of temporal and spatial proximity, explains (but does not justify) why we prioritize treatment over prevention. Further I argue that psychologically we lack moral imagination to understand future harm, an understanding necessary to help prioritize, or at least make equal, prevention and treatment.

Keywords: prevention; treatment; clinical ethics; philosophy of medicine; compassion; vividness; moral imagination; thought experiment

Chapter.  16869 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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