Alex Voorhoeve & Veronika Luptakova (LSE): “How Do People Balance Death Against Lesser Burdens?”

When the number of people one can save from harm is fixed and the difference in harm one can save people from is substantial, standard principles for health resource allocation prioritize by severity. Standard principles are also fully aggregative: one death can be outweighed not merely by a large number of cases of paraplegia, but also by a sufficiently large number of very minor burdens. We examine the responses of a representative sample of the UK population (n = 389) to priority-setting dilemmas. We find that an overwhelming majority of our subjects’ views do not align with standard priority setting principles. Half of respondents do not always adhere to prioritization by severity. Among the remaining respondents, limited aggregation is much more popular than full aggregation.