Personal Responsibility and Lifestyle Diseases

Martin Marchman Andersen, Morten Ebbe Juul Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


What does it take for an individual to be personally responsible for behaviors that lead to increased risk of disease? We examine three approaches to responsibility that cover the most important aspects of the discussion of responsibility and spell out what it takes, according to each of them, to be responsible for behaviors leading to increased risk of disease. We show that only what we call the causal approach can adequately accommodate widely shared intuitions to the effect that certain causal influences-such as genetic make-up or certain social circumstances-diminish, or undermine personal responsibility. However, accepting the causal approach most likely makes personal responsibility impossible. We therefore need either to reject these widely shared intuitions about what counts as responsibility-softening or undermining or to accept that personal responsibility for behaviors leading to increased risk of disease rests on premises so shaky that personal responsibility is probably impossible.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of Medicine & Philosophy
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)480-499
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Distributive justice
  • Health
  • Health care allocation
  • Lifestyle diseases
  • Luck egalitarianism
  • Responsibility


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