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The Failure of "Lifeboat Ethics" and of Scarcity as a Natural Condition Koch, Tom


Webcast sponsored by Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and hosted by Green College. Bioethics was born of the problem of "lifeboat ethics," the situation in which resource limits insist some must die that at least some others might live. The idea of scarcity as a natural condition is fundamental to current economic theory and to the ethics that has driven bioethics since the 1960s. In this lecture, we consider this idea and its medical application in law and history and medicine. It begins with the problems of the lifeboat and the great index case of US v Holmes in 1842. The relation of assumptions of scarcity to medicine and in ethics are critiqued through a reinvestigation of that case. Those lessons are then applied, in the end, to the general problems which are assumed to be resource-defined in medical ethics today as an example.

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