Why it is necessary to quantify the value of a human life – rts.ch

If life has no price, as we often hear, on the contrary, it has a value calculated by the administration. In Switzerland, the Territorial Development Office is responsible for determining the amount. In 2019, a human life was worth 6.9 million francs.

To give a price, a value, to life is a priori impossible. Man is not a commodity and we say it well: every life is sacred and its value is therefore infinite.

There is, however, a statistical value of life. “This is the amount that society is willing to pay to prevent a death,” explains Joséphine Leuba, a research associate at the Federal Office for Territorial Development (ARE), interviewed Monday in the All Taxes Inclusive (TTC) program. of the RTS.

A life of almost 7 million francs

For Switzerland, the value for 2019 is 6.9 million francs. “It is a value calculated from an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reference value,” she specifies.

In 2012, the OECD determined an average value of USD 3 million, taken by the different countries and adjusted each year according to their GDP. Thus, in Switzerland and for the year 2019, we arrive at 6.9 million francs.

Calculate the cost of premature death

Transport and the environment in particular are areas where giving value to life is important.

“External transport costs are all costs generated by the transport, but not paid by the users,” emphasizes Joséphine Leuba. “These are mainly the costs related to air pollution and noise. It leads to premature deaths, about 2000 per year. And to calculate those costs we need this statistical value of life,” continues the ARE employee.

By valuing these lost lives, preventive measures can be taken. The politician must determine the budget to invest to reduce the risks for citizens and prevent deaths. This value allows a cost-benefit analysis.

“We have to ask ourselves the question”

“If you want to invest in a security element, if you want to invest in therapy for a patient, we have to ask ourselves the question,” notes Romand director of Avenir Suisse Jérôme Cosandey.

“Is it justified, especially if it’s paid by the community, by health insurance, by taxes? Is it justified to spend 3 or 5 million to save a life? Of course at 100 million we’ll all be talking about it.” agree that it is too expensive.”

How safe is a road

In practice, this amount of 6.9 million francs is used to decide on road safety projects, site remediation, health policy or even to prevent natural disasters.

This is the case, for example, at the start of the Anniviersweg, near Sierre (US). On this busy sub-district road, motorists run the risk of being hit by a stone chip or a landslide.

“We are taking urgent measures to protect approximately 250 m of road and part of the industrial zone,” explains François Fellay, natural disaster engineer in the state of Valais. “We are going to lay stone safety nets directly upstream of this road”.

“On the one hand, we have the risks to people and a risk to infrastructure and property,” he continues. We are using this famous value of human life.” We are talking more about the amount the company is willing to invest to avoid a death.

Balancing costs and benefits

In this sector, the risk of death is estimated at one death every 20 years, excluding the injured. The budget for the works is 9 million francs, to which must be added the annual maintenance. The cost-benefit balance has tipped in favor of the works, but this is not always the case.

“We do not systematically aim for zero risks,” emphasizes François Fellay. “On a footpath it is more acceptable to have regular stone chips than on a busy canton road.”

The price of a year of life in health

In some areas, such as health, it is preferable to use a value that relates to a year of life rather than the whole of life, to make a more accurate assessment.

“A year of living in intensive care or a year in top form is not the same,” notes Jérôme Cosandey. “So there’s the possibility of weighting in relation to the quality of life, the level of health.”

But comparing costs and benefits can raise ethical questions when it comes to human life. “I think this value is very important,” defends the Romand director of Avenir Suisse. “What are we willing to finance for our safety, for everyone’s health?” he asks.

Need to get out of the emotional

“When we are ill, we think that every treatment is valid. But every October, when we receive the bills from the health insurance funds, we say that things are not going well, that the costs are rising,” argues Jérôme Cosandey. “We may be a patient, but we’re also often a contributor. This allows us to rationalize a little bit, to get out of the emotional and know the limits of such value.”

If we place a very low value on life, we risk making the wrong choices to protect individuals. On the contrary, with an infinite value, no transport is reliable enough, no security measure is safe enough to protect a life.

Claire Braillard/oang

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