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Title: On the Criteria of the Rightful Imposition of Otherwise Impermissible Risks
Author(s): STEIGLEDER, Klaus
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 25    Issue: 3   Date: 2018   
Pages: 471-495
DOI: 10.2143/EP.25.3.3285426

Abstract :
While it is often held that rights-based moral theories cannot deal adequately or convincingly with risks this paper is part of a project to develop a compelling rights-based risk ethics. According to rights-based moral theories it is generally prohibited to impose risks on others that involve the possibility of basic harms like death or grave or severe injuries and that cannot be sufficiently controlled. But there can be circumstances when the imposition of such risks is permitted or even required. This article tries to show when this is the case. To this end five criteria are discussed and justified. Under certain conditions, the imposition of a mere risk of a basic harm may be preferable to its secure infliction. The imposition of the risk of a basic harm on one person may be justified when only in this way a risk of an even greater harm to another person can be prevented. The imposition of a small-probability risk of grave harm on one person may be situationally justified when only in this way a high-probability risk of grave harm to another person can be prevented. The criterion of the normative inevitability of risks of basic harms pertains to risks standardly connected to certain technologies, technological systems and forms of social organization. These risks can be justified if a technology or form of organization helps to avert even greater risks to all affected. Finally, the imposition of risks of basic harm can be justified by the consensus of those affected.

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