Philosophers typically conceive of exploitation as taking unfair advantage of, or garnering excessive benefit from another’s vulnerability or weakness. In such cases, the exploiter makes use of the exploitee’s vulnerability and limited options to gain benefits (often with the exploitee’s consent) that would otherwise not be granted. The case of the common soldier’s relationship to the state appears to satisfy this description of exploitation insofar as many soldiers come to unfairly take on additional physical or psychological risks associated with combat. While part of the burden of being a soldier is the acceptance of such physical and psychological risks, the burdens of soldiering extend beyond just these risks. Rather, there is also a set of profound and weighty moral burdens that individuals are expected to shoulder once he or she consents to join the profession of arms. If, however, the soldier’s decision was heavily conditioned by his or her pronounced vulnerability, then it is doubtful that the soldier was in a position to refuse the additional moral burdens thrust upon him or her by military service. This idea; that moral burdens (i.e. moral responsibility, moral risk, and moral residue) can be unfairly outsourced onto vulnerable parties and can thereby serve as a kind of currency of exploitation, I refer to here as moral exploitation. Given these ideas, this paper investigates what society owes to morally exploited soldiers and veterans in terms of medical resource allocation. Given the predominantly forward-looking QALY/DALY framework that heavily informs medical resource allocation in both the US and UK, I argue that such a scheme is inadequate in compensating for the phenomenon of the moral exploitation of soldiers and that a allocation framework valuing reciprocity should be favored instead.
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