Valuing Lives and Allocating Resources: A Defense of the Modified Youngest First Principle of Scarce Resource Distribution


  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared


In this paper, I argue that the ‘modified youngest first’ principle provides a morally appropriate criterion for making decisions regarding the distribution of scarce medical resources, and that it is morally preferable to the simple ‘youngest first’ principle. Based on the complete lives system's goal of maximizing complete lives rather than individual life episodes, I argue that essential to the value we see in complete lives is the first person value attributed by the experiencer of that life. For a life to be ‘complete’ or ‘incomplete,’ the subject of that life must be able to understand the concept of a complete life, to have started goals and projects, and to know what it would be for that life to be complete. As the very young are not able to do this, it can reasonably be said that their characteristically human lives have not yet begun, giving those accepting a complete lives approach good reason to accept the modified youngest first principle over a simple ‘youngest first’ approach.