The Safety Tradeoff

English: Sudafed, a decongestant used to allev...

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Should we deny millions of people a useful treatment in order to prevent a handful of fatalities?  Before you answer that, ask yourself whether youd be willing to stop driving on the grounds that statistically, youre reducing the chances that someone will die.

via Do We Need Even Tighter Controls on Sudafed? – Megan McArdle – Health – The Atlantic.

This is the kind of question we need to be asking more. As a culture, we sometimes seem obsessed with eliminating risk. But every change has consequences, good and bad. We seem prone, in the heat of the moment, to look only at the good consequences and ignore the bad. This is particularly true when the bad consequences fall on someone else. And even if we were careful in identifying and understanding the consequences, we don’t appear to have a shared view about how trade-offs are to be make. I guess this is why both economics and moral philosophy are so important. Too bad most of us have little knowledge of either.


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