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Department of Social Medicine

Home Duke: Trent Ctr., Humanities in Med : Paul Kelleher: Prevention & the Rule of Rescue

Duke: Trent Ctr., Humanities in Med : Paul Kelleher: Prevention & the Rule of Rescue

Paul Kelleher, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Medical History & Bioethics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, will speak on: Prevention and the Rule of Rescue
When Oct 03, 2013
from 03:00 PM to 05:00 PM
Where Duke Univ. Med. Ctr: 108 Seeley G. Mudd Bldg.
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It is often said that prevention is better than treatment. However, this precept assumes a first person perspective: when choosing for myself, I should typically wish to avoid illness, rather than treating it once it develops. But public policy often takes a third-person perspective, and here it is questionable why prevention should win out. After all, at the time of implementation, the beneficiaries of treatment are often much worse off than the beneficiaries of prevention. Further, many population-level preventive interventions work by reducing many people's already low risks by just a further tiny amount. This talk will examine the moral status of these kinds of preventive interventions and will seek to understand whether and why the rescue of identifiable individuals should ever take priority over population-level preventive measures.

J. Paul Kelleher is Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical History & Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also holds an appointment in the Department of Philosophy. He received a PhD in Philosophy from Cornell University, and was a post-doctoral fellow in the Program in Ethics & Health at Harvard University. His research focuses mainly on the source and shape of social obligations to protect and promote health, and on the ethics of health resource allocation and priority-setting.

Those interested in receiving an advance copy of a related paper by Professor Kelleher may contact Gopal Sreenivasan, PhD at

For directions, please visit our How to Find Us page. For more information, email us or call the Trent Center at: 919.668.9000