'But' is a short word that is sometimes asked to do an awful lot of work.
In Saturday's Guardian Review supplement (30th May), Dr Rachel Clarke tells of her time as a Covid-19 doctor. 'Behind the statistics the pandemic unfolds one human being at a time', she writes. Hers is the story of one such person, an old man dying in a Covid-19 ward, and of his sons, dazed and confused, witnessing the last hours of their father's life.
'You could argue', she says, 'that there was little point to a man like Winston' - he was old, unproductive, and probably near the end of his life anyway. Others should take precedence, the argument might continue, the young, the productive, those with more life to live than Winston.
'But,' she continues, 'to those of us close up to this dreadful disease - who see, as we do, the way it suffocates the life from you - such judgments are grotesque'. It is easy to see why she thinks this, and Clarke's account of the bewilderment of Winston's sons as they see their father's life slipping away, and their determination that he not become just another statistic in Number 10's 5 p.m. press conference, is heartrendingly powerful.
'The moment we rank life according to who most "deserves" it,' writes Dr Clarke, 'we have crossed into a realm I don't want to be a part of'.
But this is a realm none of us can escape from, not even Dr Clarke.
The lockdown Clarke thinks should continue for fear of a second Coronavirus wave has caused its own casualties. The 1.5 million Britons who haven't eaten for a whole day during lockdown, those unable to work from home, those whose operations have been cancelled or postponed, the women and young people who will do worst out of lockdown, the victims of a spike in domestic abuse, and the sufferers of extreme social isolation - all these are victims of Covid-19 too.
Are the lives of these people less deserving than Winston's? I honestly don't know, but in writing so powerfully in favour of Winston and those like him, Dr Clarke is surely in the business of 'ranking life' - as are we all, like it or not.