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What is the value of life? A review of the value of a prevented fatality used by regulators and others in the UK

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-39
Number of pages8
JournalNuclear Future
Issue number1
DateAccepted/In press - 6 Dec 2016
DatePublished (current) - 13 Feb 2017


The UK Department for Transport values the prevention of a fatality on Britain’s roads at £1.8M (2016 £s). This value is used across Government departments and agencies, including the Office for Nuclear Regulation, as a de facto standard for valuing the benefit of safety measures that preserve human life. However there is no evidential basis for this valuation as it is derived from a statistical analysis of sparse survey data carried out 20 years ago that has now been found to be flawed. The methodology used to infer the VPF has been shown to be internally inconsistent, with the final recommended value being subjective. Members of the public whose opinions were rejected by the survey team actually gave entirely rational and understandable valuations based on human perceptions of utility. Another influential study – used to justify a significant reduction in spending to prevent multi-fatality rail accidents – has been found to be systematically biased against those very people who wanted more to be spent on preventing accidents causing multiple deaths. In contrast to the one-size-fits-all VPF, the J-value provides an objective, rational and statistically rigorous methodology that values the prevention of a premature death in terms of the amount of life that the potential victim would lose.

    Research areas

  • Value of a Prevented Fatality, VPF, J-value, Stated preferences, Revealed preferences

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    Rights statement: This is the final published version of the article (version of record). It first appeared via the Nuclear Institute . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

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