[ExI] (The Independent 2013-08) Plumpy'Nut: The lifesaver that costs... well, peanuts

Dan Ust dan_ust at yahoo.com
Mon Sep 23 15:50:27 UTC 2013

> On Sep 21, 2013, at 6:12 AM, Ben Zaiboc <bbenzai at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Dan <dan_ust at yahoo.com> wrote:
>> I think the problem here is with considering this doing X will cause a person to 
>> die view.
> That's over-generalising what I was saying.  It's not "doing X", it's a specific kind of action, where there is something with the direct purpose or effect of saving lives, that is deliberately prevented from being made available as widely as it could, because that wouldn't be as profitable for someone.  Maybe, in some convoluted way, I could save a life if I lived in a ditch, but that's a quite different thing to holding a patent on a life-saving drug, and using it to actively prevent an organisation in India from manufacturing and deploying a version of that drug because I wouldn't profit from it.

It is different, but where's the line drawn? Let's move away from the extreme example. What about the guy who's going to buy a latte before work. He could forego that pleasure and donate the money to some cause that would better someone else's life, possibly even saving their life, say, with an inexpensive vaccination that's the same price as his donation. (Similar to an example by the late Philippa Foot that I can't recall at the moment.) Is he a moral monster for deciding on bettering his own life with the latte?

Then there's the issue of even if it is morally wrong for him to choose the latte, can we compel him to make the morally right choice. In other words, is it just and right for us to force him to do the right thing?

And there are countless other examples where this can apply and apply in a more immediate fashion. What about a top heart surgeon that charges anything above her minimal costs of just getting by for surgery? All else being equal, isn't she condemning some of potential patients to death -- the ones who can't afford her and so have to go to a lesser heart surgeon with a higher chance if dying?

That said, the main problem with patents for me is justifying them at all, regardless of whether they cause someone to choose more money over saving lives. (That doesn't mean, of course, that I'd choose more money over saving lives. (I'd love to be in a position of having loads of money to save lots of lives.:) I'm more asking about using that as the sole criterion here and also about the related issue of justice concerns.)


 Through Monday PST, my three Kindle stories will be free:

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list