Resentment and the Rights of the Elderly

  • Albert R. Jonsen
Part of the Contemporary Issues in Biomedicine, Ethics, and Society book series (CIBES)


A vigorous debate now rages over the distribution of health care resources in the United States. The place of the elderly in this distribution is hotly contested, not only in the academic discussions, but in the political arena. On the academic side, the problem is framed as a debate over theories of distributive justice; in the political forum, the voice of the voters exerts a power more than theoretical. This chapter suggests a link between the two. A hint of that link appears in a curious passage penned by philosopher David Hume in hisEnquiry Concerning Principles of Morals:

Were there a species of creature intermingled with men which, though rational, were possessed of such inferior strength, both of body and mind, that they were incapable of all resistance and could never, upon the highest provocation, make us feel the effects of their resentment: the necessary consequence, I think, is that we should be bound by the laws of humanity to give gentle usage to these creatures, but should not, properly speaking, lie under any restraint of justice with regard to them.’


Social Institution Distributive Justice Social Arrangement Vigorous Debate Personal Worth 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

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  • Albert R. Jonsen

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