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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)


The list below shows Durham University research staff who are members of IMEMS. Click the member's name to see a more detailed biography and department.

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Publication details for Professor Geoffrey Scarre

Scarre, Geoffrey (2017). Is it possible to be better off dead? In Ethics at the end of life. Davis, John K. New York: Routledge. 11-28.

Author(s) from Durham


Although the coherence of supposing that a person could ever be better off dead has sometimes been questioned on metaphysical grounds, I argue in favour of the common intuition that in some circumstances death could be better for a person than continued life. I proceed to defend three conclusions: (a) that generalisations about when a person may be better off dead are elusive, the answers being personal and existential and affected by how individuals see the world and their place within it; (b) that the question of whether it would be better for a person to die than live arises not only in medical contexts, where she may be suffering severe physical or mental distress or disability, but also in situations in which the prospect of prolonged life is unattractive because living longer would be incompatible with her values; and (c) that because judgements as to whether further life would be worth living are heavily dependent on the subject’s value commitments, criticism from an alternative value-standpoint of a person’s judgement that she would be better off dead is unlikely to change her mind and may beg the question against her.