Harm and the boundaries of disease

Patrick McGivern*, Sarah Sorial

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


What is the relationship between harm and disease? Discussions of the relationship between harm and disease typically suffer from two shortcomings. First, they offer relatively little analysis of the concept of harm itself, focusing instead on examples of clear cases of harm such as death and dismemberment. This makes it difficult to evaluate such accounts in borderline cases, where the putative harms are less severe. Second, they assume that harm-based accounts of disease must be understood normatively rather than naturalistically, in the sense that they are inherently value based. This makes such accounts vulnerable to more general objections of normative accounts of disease. Here we draw on an influential account of harm from the philosophy of law to develop a harm-based account of disease that overcomes both of these shortcomings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-484
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Medicine and Philosophy (United Kingdom)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Boorse
  • Disease
  • Harm
  • Health
  • Naturalism


Dive into the research topics of 'Harm and the boundaries of disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this