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"Lives" are the Wrong Measure

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When thinking about triage situations, it's common for people to assume that saving lives (as many of them as possible) should be our moral goal.  But this is wrong, for the straightforward reason that some deaths are vastly more tragic than others.It's worth bearing in mind that lives can't be saved, but only extended.  So "saving lives" is not even a coherent goal.  You can aim to maximize the number of lives extended (for any period whatsoever), but we can now see that this is akin to trying to blindly maximize the number of patients treated.  By ignoring how much the patients gain from different treatments, you're clearly neglecting what actually matters -- the underlying health benefits that are the whole purpose of medical interventions in the first place.  Willfully blinding yourself to the magnitudes of different interests will lead to predictable injustice: you might foolishly prioritize two patients' papercuts over another's spreading gangrene, for example.  Raw numbers helped is not the important thing.  Moreover, this principle is as true of life-extending treatments as it is of any other.  (This is most obvious if you imagine a treatment that will extend life by mere minutes.)  I don't see how any remotely sensible person could possibly deny this.This has important practical implications. For example, reasons of utility and justice alike should lead us to view an extra five decades for one 20-year-old as morally more important to secure than an extra five years each for as many as ten 80-year-olds.  This is a drastic counterexample to the idea that we should simply prioritize "saving the most lives".  The indiscriminate number-chasers neglect how much more is at stake for the 20 year old. Their entire adult lifetime should not so easily be sacrificed for the sake of bonus years to others who have already lived more than most people ever will.Shifting focus to. . .

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