Unless things change, there is no harsh death penalty in SWTOR. As with all things, there are those who like this and those who don't; count me among those who like it.
I remember the first time I died in Everquest, it sucked. First, I had to learn that I had to go back to my body to retrieve all of my stuff. Second, I had to try to find my body. This was my first time playing and I really didn't know much about the game and I didn't know my way around. I ended up asking one of those classes who could track bodies for help after I learned of their existence.
The next MMORPG I played was LOTRO and the death penalty there is much more tolerable. I can handle a little dread or pop a token to remove the dread if a Minstrel can't do it for me. No worrying about losing items or having to find my corpse, thank goodness, but I do have to worry about repair bills from combat death.
Enter Age of Conan. I dislike the death penalty here, though it's not as bad as it could be so I somewhat tolerate it. This one is a little closer to the dread effect in LOTRO except you can remove the penalty by claiming your headstone, which isn't always easy to do or you wouldn't have died in the first place. I can't speak to if there are any penalties in DDO or CO because I have never died in those games.
Now, one of the reason I don't care for certain death penalties is because these are games. Games are meant to be fun, something you choose to do instead of reading a book, watching tv, doing homework; something you choose to do for relaxation. It is not fun to spend part of your free time, which may be limited, running back to your corpse or headstone. What is fun is running around killing things, exploring, reading story lines, etc.
And this brings me to the other reason I dislike death penalties: suicide. I'm a hugely suicidal game player. Your game has a pit with no invisible wall blocking access to it? I'm jumping in. Your game has a cliff with no invisi-wall? I'm jumping. Your game has a tower I can climb on top of with no surrounding invisi-wall? I'm jumping. If there is a place I can jump from, jump into, whatever...I'm doing it. People like me are the reason LOTRO added a Blind Leaper hidden deed inside Moria.
Anyway, I am glad there will not be a death penalty like those mentioned because I have no doubt there will be some good jumping spots considering the setting for the game. I do wonder, though, if 'misadventure' deaths will result in repair bills. Not a big deal if they do, I'm just curious to know.