How to put a price tag on a human life

Analysts calculate the price of human life for the purposes of modelling, but there are ethical hindrances to this approach.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: TASR)

How much is a human life worth? To most people, that is a cynical question that should have no answer. To analysts who provide reports that are later used, for instance, in deciding about COVID-19 measures, it is a very concrete problem to solve.

In a pandemic like the one the humanity is experiencing with COVID-19, these questions, cynical at the best of times, have become even more delicate, as governments take drastic measures hindering economies to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading further. Analysts have the concepts they use to make these calculations, but point out that the numbers cannot simply be applied without ethical considerations and utmost caution.

The Institute of Economic and Social Studies (INESS) non-governmental think tank recently introduced their latest analysis, called How Much is a Human Life Worth?, providing a view of how economists calculate the value of human life.

“The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is far from costless and at a certain moment we will get into a situation when damage, including that on health, caused by additional measures will exceed saved lives and health,” said INESS analyst Martin Vlachynský. “Given the scale of the pandemic, damage from a thoughtless approach to stopping the pandemic can lead to the country’s complete economic and social disintegration.”

Nevertheless, he is not suggesting that decisions taken amidst the pandemic should strictly follow mathematic calculations on the value of human life. It is a much more complex matter.

The rest of this article is premium content at Spectator.sk
Subscribe now for full access

I already have subscription - Sign in

Subscription provides you with:
  • Immediate access to all locked articles (premium content) on Spectator.sk
  • Special weekly news summary + an audio recording with a weekly news summary to listen to at your convenience (received on a weekly basis directly to your e-mail)
  • PDF version of the latest issue of our newspaper, The Slovak Spectator, emailed directly to you
  • Access to all premium content on Sme.sk and Korzar.sk

Get daily Slovak news directly to your inbox

Top stories

Igor Matovič (left) and Richard Sulík (right) in May 2020.

The far-right is falling, SaS stays ahead of OĽaNO

Za Ľudí would return to the parliament, according to the latest poll.

4 h
Illustrative stock photo

Gov't approved stricter Covid measures. If ineffective, hard lockdown will follow

FFP2 respirators will be obligatory, some schools will close again.

18 h
The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was approved for use in the EU on January 29, 2021.

We need to talk about AstraZeneca. Without curse words

If you can’t deliver — fine. Then don’t say you can.

23 h