, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 259-282

Bad Deaths

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Abstract

Evidence is presented to show that people are willing to pay a premium to avoid bad deaths—deaths that are especially dreaded, uncontrollable, involuntarily incurred, and inequitably distributed. Public judgments of this kind help explain the demand for regulation. But some of these judgments do not justify current policies, because they stem from selective attention and confusion. Few causes of death are entirely uncontrollable or faced wholly involuntarily; the issue is not whether they can be controlled but at what cost. But three kinds of bad deaths deserve special attention: those imposing high externalities, those preceded by unusual pain and suffering, and those producing distributional inequity.