Value of life

Value of human life is - apart from the ethical context - a technical term from economics. In economics methods have been developed that assess the loss or extension of human life in monetary units so that these monetary values ​​are used for a comparative economic decision-making. Such a comparison can occur, for example as part of a cost-benefit analysis of variants of the security planning. Here is also spoken of the value of a statistical life ( WSL).

Whether and to what extent the financial evaluation of a human life is methodologically possible and politically or ethically permissible, is controversial.

Basic problem in security planning

In the safety planning, there is often the problem, how much should be spent on security measures. Dignity of a human life are "infinite" valued at the amount of money, you would come to the conclusion that they all "Unlimited " would have to spend on security measures. Two different measures of the public sector, the different cost a lot, but its more expensive saves more lives, would not be turned - or very limited - economical rate.

Methods of calculation

Expenditure on the prevention of fatal accidents

From a security point is especially relevant workplace safety. Example, it was investigated how much employers actually spend on average, to prevent work-related death of a worker. Such studies are, depending on the context and land on very different values. Some studies, for example, set this value to about 10 million euros.

Compensatory wage differentials

A German study calculated 1.72 million euros for a busy man, 1.43 million euros for a busy woman and 1.22 million euros for a male worker. For the United States are about 3-4 times higher sums calculated for the value of human life at work than in Germany. Also for the U.S., the statistical value of a human life of a white worker with 15 million U.S. dollars is estimated more than twice as high as that of a black worker with $ 7.2 million according to a study.

Sociological surveys

In a representative survey of 1,002 Germans responded to the question whether they would be willing to die a year early for one million euros, one in five with "Yes". With increasing age the willingness fell for this barter.

Ethical problems

The valuation of human life based on external preferences of the market is primarily intended as a basic problem of utilitarian or other consequentialist ethics, which attach to the life no intrinsic value. The monetary evaluability of a human life is, however, disputed by theoretical positions which make the incommensurability of values ​​submitted. This will roughly philosophers called the successor of Immanuel Kant on the concept of human dignity that a financial assessment of people with a price meant to exclude. As an alternative to cost-benefit analysis in the evaluation of cost - effectiveness analysis comes in cases where it specifically comes to saving lives, especially in the health sector in question. This may give an answer to the question of how as many lives can be saved by available funding, but avoid it to compare the saving of human life with other welfare -enhancing policy objectives in monetary terms. In the EU, for example, life not rated monetarily, but it can be compared ( in QALYs or DALYs for example ) merely different measures with respect to their effectiveness for statistical extension of the life of the population, which can face ethical problems here as well.

Another point of criticism is the possibility of a group-specific discrimination of different social willingness to pay, at least according to the human capital approach. It is argued that cost-benefit analysis is applied after the welfare economic theory as a basis for political or administrative decisions, the value of life is to be estimated as individually as possible. This could ever follow after study design, that the extension of the life of a white man by a State measure a larger societal value than that of a black woman.