Population aging and international development: addressing competing claims of distributive justice

Dev World Bioeth. 2007 Apr;7(1):8-18. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-8847.2006.00152.x.


To date, bioethics and health policy scholarship has given little consideration to questions of aging and intergenerational justice in the developing world. Demographic changes are precipitating rapid population aging in developing nations, however, and ethical issues regarding older people's claim to scarce healthcare resources must be addressed. This paper posits that the traditional arguments about generational justice and age-based rationing of healthcare resources, which were developed primarily in more industrialized nations, fail to adequately address the unique challenges facing older persons in developing nations. Existing philosophical approaches to age-based resource allocation underemphasize the importance of older persons for developing countries and fail to adequately consider the rights and interests of older persons in these settings. Ultimately, the paper concludes that the most appropriate framework for thinking about generational justice in developing nations is a rights-based approach that allows for the interests of all age groups, including the oldest, to be considered in the determination of health resource allocation.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Bioethics
  • Developing Countries*
  • Economics
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations
  • Internationality
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Dynamics*
  • Resource Allocation / ethics*
  • Social Justice*