Mark Kelman


The canonical case that psychologists, philosophers, and policy analysts reflect upon in considering how and why individuals and collective decision makers allocate resources that diminish the number of preventable death in seemingly irrational ways is the "Baby Jessica" case. The simple behavioral observation we make is that there was a generous, spontaneous outpouring of aid to save Baby Jessica, a young child trapped in a well. At the same time, those people who sent checks and cash to save the trapped child seem to be willing to expend far fewer resources to preventsuch accidents or other fatalities. The case raises at least two quite distinct descriptive and normative issues that are often conflated, though each is worth independent attention: First, how do and should we think about the ways we react to saving identifiable victims rather than "unknown persons"? Second, how do and should we make decisions about expending resources to cure or rescue those who are already known to be in mortal danger rather than to prevent people from dying or developing fatal maladies?