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Ethical aspects of radiation protection
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6388-8674
2006 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

This aim of this thesis is to examine ethical aspects of radiation protection from ionizing radiation. Radiation protection is the professional field that deals with the protection of humans and the environment from the harmful effects of radiation. The field is based on scientific knowledge of the health effects of radiation, but also on ethical value judgements.

This thesis consists of a summary and three essays. Essay 1 gives an overview of ethical issues in radiation protection. Based on this overview four ethical problem areas are identified as central for radiation protection. The first are ethical problems related to uncertainty and the influence of value judgements, especially in scientific risk assessment. The second problem area is ethical issues regarding distributions of risks and benefits between different individuals, both in space and time. The third general problem area is related to limit-setting. A major problem here is how to set limits in an ethically justifiable way when there is no known level of exposure that is associated with a zero risk. The fourth area concerns procedural justice and social decision-making in radiation protection. Essay 2 discusses ethical problems related to the proposal that individual risks below a certain level should be excluded from the system of radiation protection, without any regard to the number of people exposed. It is concluded that there are at least three problems associated with disregarding very small risks: (1) that many small risks to an individual may add up to a large risk for that individual, (2) that many small risks to many individuals may add up to a large expected value of harm, and (3) that a small risk each to many individuals may add up to a large probability that several people are harmed. It is also argued that the proposal is hard to justify in a rights-based ethical setting. Essay 3 examines what makes one distribution of individual doses better than another. This is done by creating a mathematical framework, based on preference logic, in which such assessments of can be made precisely in terms of comparisons between alternative distributions of individual doses. Principles from radiation protection and from parallel discussions in moral philosophy and welfare economics are defined using this framework and then analysed on basis of their formal properties. The analysis shows that there can be efficiency-related problems with a strict application of individual dose constraints. It is concluded that a principle that assigns extra weight to individual doses exceeding a certain limit, in proportion to the size of the excess dose, may be preferable to the standard combination of principles in radiation protection, since it satisfies efficiency related properties better without sacrificing other desirable properties.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH , 2006. , xvii p.
Series
Theses in philosophy from the Royal Institute of Technology, ISSN 1650-8831
Keyword [en]
Radiation, risk, ethics
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-3946ISBN: 91-7178-332-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-3946DiVA: diva2:10132
Presentation
2006-05-22, Seminarierummet, Avd för filosofi, KTH, Teknikringen 78, Stockholm, 10:15
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20101124Available from: 2006-05-10 Created: 2006-05-10 Last updated: 2010-11-24Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The ethics of radiation protection: an overview
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The ethics of radiation protection: an overview
(English)Manuscript (Other academic)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-5683 (URN)
Note
QC 20101124Available from: 2006-05-10 Created: 2006-05-10 Last updated: 2010-11-24Bibliographically approved
2. Trivial risks and the new radiation protection system
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Trivial risks and the new radiation protection system
2004 (English)In: Journal of Radiological Protection, ISSN 0952-4746, E-ISSN 1361-6498, Vol. 24, no 1, 3-11 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The International Commission on Radiological Protection proposes that doses below a certain level should be excluded from the system of protection, without regard to the number of people exposed. As the Commission assumes that there is a risk of harm even from very low doses, the proposal also disregards these very low risks. The arguments for this proposal are examined here. It is argued that the fact that risks are small compared to natural sources cannot be used as justification for accepting them. The principle 'if the risk of harm to the health of the most exposed individual is trivial, then the total risk is trivial-irrespective of how many people are exposed' is analysed. It is found to equivocate on the meaning of the word trivial and to ignore the total risk. It is also argued that the new proposal is not justified by a change from a utilitarian ethic to an ethic based on individual rights. Finally, it is suggested that small doses should only be disregarded if the expected value of harm is small, and the exclusion level should thus depend on the number of people exposed.

Keyword
Dosimetry, Health risks, Protection, Risk assessment, Social aspects
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-5684 (URN)10.1088/0952-4746/24/1/001 (DOI)000220527500002 ()15080545 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-1842557427 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20101124Available from: 2006-05-10 Created: 2006-05-10 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved
3. Principles of protection: a formal approach for evaluating dose distribution
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Principles of protection: a formal approach for evaluating dose distribution
2006 (English)In: Journal of Radiological Protection, ISSN 0952-4746, E-ISSN 1361-6498, Vol. 26, no 1, 69-84 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

 One of the central issues in radiation protection consists in determining what weight should be given to individual doses in relation to collective or aggregated doses. A mathematical framework is introduced in which such assessments can be made precisely in terms of comparisons between alternative distributions of individual doses. In addition to evaluation principles that are well known from radiation protection, a series of principles that are derived from parallel discussions in moral philosophy and welfare economics is investigated. A battery of formal properties is then used to investigate the evaluative principles. The results indicate that one of the new principles, bilinear prioritarianism, may be preferable to current practices, since it satisfies efficiency-related properties better without sacrificing other desirable properties.

Keyword
article, human, radiation dose, radiation protection, risk assessment, statistical model
National Category
Philosophy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-5685 (URN)10.1088/0952-4746/26/1/004 (DOI)000236778700011 ()16522945 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-33744481537 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20101124Available from: 2006-05-10 Created: 2006-05-10 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved

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