The UK government has valued the price of a life at 1.8 million pounds, a figure it advises to spend on safety gears to avoid accidents.
The National Health Service uses another method of judging whether the cost of a new treatment is worth its cost, by working out the number of quality years it would add to a person’s life, a statement released by the Warwick Business School (WBS) said.
If a treatment can deliver an extra Quality Adjusted Life Year for 30,000 pounds or less, it is regarded as good value for money.
Governments, insurance companies and public bodies have to take account of the value of a human life in deciding where to spend their money.
Most government departments survey the population to come to a figure.
Now academics from WBS’s Behavioural Science Group and the University of Warwick’s Psychology department have started a four-year study into how these “values” are obtained and how people in surveys come to their “value”.
“Research has shown that context and the method used to elicit people’s values have an influence on their answer. People are open to error and bias when asked for snap judgements or when doing surveys and their answers can vary quite a lot from one situation to another,” said Graham Loomes, Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School.
“Putting a monetary value on life and health and safety is difficult and the answers can be pushed around by the way the question is framed,” he said.
“The Leverhulme Trust has awarded Warwick Business School and the University of Warwick a total of 900,000 pounds to look at the concept of value both at a fundamental level and to be applied in public policy matters,” he said.
“At the end of the four years it is unlikely we will have a simple model to be used in every situation,” Loomes said.
“But what we hope to have is a model that can be adapted and used in different areas,” he said.