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Double jeopardy and the veil of ignorance--a reply.
  1. J Harris
  1. University of Manchester.


    This paper discusses the attempt in this issue of the journal by Peter Singer, John McKie, Helga Kuhse and Jeff Richardson, to defend QALYs against the argument from double jeopardy which I first outlined in 1987. In showing how the QALY and other similar measures which combine life expectancy and quality of life and use these to justify particular allocations of health care resource, remain vulnerable to the charge of double jeopardy I am able to clarify some of the central issues concerning the value of life. In particular, the idea that the value of a life varies with its life expectancy and with its quality, understood in terms of its richness, variety, success etc, is subjected to special examination. It is shown how defenders of QALYs are committed to the view that so far from all lives being of equal value, all lives are necessarily of subtly different value. The paper then analyses the use to which the notorious 'veil of ignorance' has been put both by Singer et al and by others and shows how this device of John Rawls's cannot do the work so often assigned to it. The paper then considers the issue of hypothetical consent and the role that it can play in justifying disposing of the lives of people who have not in fact consented to their lives being disposed of in particular ways. Finally, the paper makes some points about the comprehensive nature of the data collection and storage which would be required by QALY advocates and points out the independent problems attaching to licensing such comprehensive collection and use of personal data.

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