• Value of life

    Value of life

    • The value of life, potency of life, or cost of life is an economic value assigned to life in general, or to specific living organisms. In social and political sciences, it is the marginal cost of death prevention in a certain class of circumstances. In many studies the value also includes the quality of life, the expected life time remaining, as well as the earning potential of a given person especially for an after the fact payment in lawsuits for wrongful death.

      As such, it is a statistical term, the cost of reducing the average number of deaths by one. It is an important issue in a wide range of disciplines including economics, health care, adoption, political economy, insurance, worker safety, environmental impact assessment, and globalization.

      In industrial nations, the justice system considers a human life "priceless", thus illegalizing any form of slavery; i.e., humans cannot be bought at any price. However, with a limited supply of resources or infrastructural capital (e.g. ambulances), or skill at hand, it is impossible to save every life, so some trade-off must be made. Also, this argumentation neglects the statistical context of the term. It is not commonly attached to lives of individuals or used to compare the value of one person's life relative to another person's. It is mainly used in circumstances of saving lives as opposed to taking lives or "producing" lives.

      There is no standard concept for the value of a specific human life in economics. However, when looking at risk/reward trade-offs that people make with regard to their health, economists often consider the value of a statistical life (VSL). The VSL is the value that an individual places on a marginal change in their likelihood of death. Note that the VSL is very different from the value of an actual life. It is the value placed on changes in the likelihood of death, not the price someone would pay to avoid certain death.

      Beginning in 2004 EPA's Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) used an estimate of $5.5 million (1999 dollars; $6.6 million in 2006 dollars) for the analysis of air regulations. This estimate was derived from the range of values estimated in three meta-analyses of VSL conducted after EPA's Guidelines were published in 2000 (Mrozek and Taylor (2000), Viscusi and Aldy (2003), and later, Kochi, et al. (2006).) However, the Agency neither changed its official guidance on the use of VSL in rule-makings nor subjected the interim estimate to a scientific peer-review process through the Science Advisory Board (SAB) or other peer-review group.
      The direct benefits of the Clean Air Act from 1970 to 1990 include reduced incidence of a number of adverse human health effects, improvements in visibility, and avoided damage to agricultural crops. Based on the assumptions employed, the estimated economic value of these benefits ranges from $5.6 to $49.4 trillion, in 1990 dollars, with a mean, or central tendency estimate, of $22.2 trillion. These estimates do not include a number of other potentially important benefits which could not be readily quantified, such as ecosystem changes and air toxics-related human health effects. The estimates are based on the assumption that correlations between increased air pollution exposures and adverse health outcomes found by epidemiological studies indicate causal relationships between the pollutant exposures and the adverse health effects.
      The direct costs of implementing the Clean Air Act from 1970 to 1990, including annual compliance expenditures in the private sector and program implementation costs in the public sector, totaled $523 billion in 1990 dollars.
      • $50,000 per year of quality life (international standard most private and government-run health insurance plans worldwide use to determine whether to cover a new medical procedure)
      • $129,000 per year of quality life (based on analysis of kidney dialysis procedures by Stefanos Zenios and colleagues at Stanford Graduate School of Business)
      • $9.1 million (Environmental Protection Agency, 2010)
      • $7.9 million (Food and Drug Administration, 2010)
      • $9.4 million (Transportation Department, 2015)
      • $9.1 million (Prof. W. Kip Viscusi, Vanderbilt University, 2013)
  • What Else?

    • Value of life