Rights at Risk : Ethical Issues in Risk Management

Abstract: he subject of this thesis is ethical aspects of decision-making concerning social risks. It is argued that a model for risk management must acknowledge several ethical aspects and, most crucial among these, the individual’s right not to be unfairly exposed to risks. Article I takes as its starting point the demand frequently expressed in the risk literature for consistent risk management. It is maintained that a model focusing on cost-benefit analysis does not respect the rights of the individual. Two alternative models are outlined. They evolve around the separateness of individuals, rights, and fair risk taking. It is claimed that a model that focuses on a fair procedure for risk decisions seems most fruitful to develop. Article II discusses the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) conflict. The ethical premises behind the negative characterization of the NIMBY concept are investigated. It is argued that a collective weighing of risks and benefits ignores individuals’ rights not to be unfairly exposed to risks in siting scenarios. Article III presents a three-party model tool for ethical risk analysis. The focus in such analysis is a discussion of three parties that are involved in risk decisions: the risk-exposed, the beneficiary, and the decision-maker. Seven crucial ethical questions are discerned by combining these parties pairwise. Article IV discusses a model for procedural justice for risk decisions. Two theories of deliberative democracy are explored. The first focuses on a hypothetical contract, the second argues for the actual inclusion of affected parties. It is maintained that hypothetical reasoning should mainly serve as a guide concerning risk issues that affect people who cannot be included in the decision-making process. Otherwise an interactive dialogical reasoning is to be preferred. Article V explores the claim that there are no real, objective risks – only subjective descriptions of them. It is argued that even though every risk can be described in different ways, involve value judgements and emotions, the ideal of objectivity should not be abandoned.