Death and the value of life

Ethics. 1988 Oct;99(1):32-61. doi: 10.1086/293034.


KIE: The Epicurean argument that death cannot be a misfortune for the person who dies because, when death occurs, there is no longer a person to whom any misfortune can befall, fails to establish the conclusions which its defenders have sought from it. Beginning with the premise that death can be bad, either for the victim or in quasi-impersonal terms, the author seeks to define that badness through philosophical analysis. The belief that to have more life than is worth living is always better than to have less is reconciled with the notion that the badness of death increases with the degree of psychological connectedness, using the examples of the deaths of an unborn fetus and of a 35-year-old woman. The author contends it can be better for a person to suffer a worse death at 35 than never to have lived at all.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Beginning of Human Life
  • Congenital, Hereditary, and Neonatal Diseases and Abnormalities
  • Death*
  • Euthanasia, Passive
  • Fetus
  • Homicide
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Life
  • Personhood*
  • Philosophy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Suicide
  • Value of Life*
  • Wounds and Injuries