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Comment on Brown and Savulescu
  1. Per Algander
  1. Nova Institute of Philosophy, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
  1. Correspondence to Dr Per Algander, Nova Institute of Philosophy, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisboa 1069-061, Portugal; per.algander{at}

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Rebecca Brown and Julian Savulescu argue in ‘Responsibility in Healthcare Across Time and Agents’ that if responsibility should play a crucial role in healthcare, then we need a concept of responsibility that reflects that an individual’s behaviour is sometimes, if not routinely, influenced by external factors in various ways. As Brown and Savulescu convincingly show, health-related behaviour in particular is often affected by other agents and typically involves multiple decisions on different occasions. Smoking and a poor diet are but two examples where these factors are salient. Since health-related behaviour is often influenced by others, and often spread out over time, a notion of responsibility that does not take these two factors into account will be inadequate.

In this comment to their paper I wish to raise an issue concerning Brown and Savulescu’s characterisation of individual responsibility for health-related behaviour that involves multiple choices by the same agent over a period of time. For simple acts—smoking a cigarette or eating some junk food for example—Brown and Savulescu assume two necessary conditions for responsibility: a ‘control condition’ and a ‘epistemic condition’. These conditions are intended to capture the plausible idea that …

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  • Funding This work was written as a part of the project "Values in Argumentative Discourse", generously funded by the Portugese Foundation for Science and Technology (grant number PTDC/MHC-FIL/0521/2014).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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