Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Getting real about injustice

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 04 February 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c659
  1. Iona Heath, general practitioner, London
  1. iona.heath22{at}

    Social justice is a powerful determinant of health, which is why doctors should read Nobel prize winning economist Amartya Sen’s magnificent new book, writes Iona Heath

    Amartya Sen is a living international treasure, and his latest book is a testament to that status. He was born in India in 1933 and was awarded the Nobel prize for economics in 1998 for his analysis of famines. He summarises that work as follows: “No major famine has ever occurred in a functioning democracy with regular elections, opposition parties, basic freedom of speech and a relatively free media (even when the country is very poor and in a seriously adverse food situation).” He describes economics as his profession and philosophy as his love affair. He is steeped in the history of both.

    Sen has had a lifelong preoccupation with the challenges presented by the pervasive and enduring presence of patent injustice within human societies, and The Idea of Justice is a summation of that preoccupation. It begins as a critique of most modern theories of justice that seek to describe the nature and essential characteristics of perfectly just institutions. (Most …

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