Why Are Lives Lost To Medical Malpractice Not As Valuable As Other Lives?

medical malpractice lives value.GIFOver at the California Consumer Attorneys blog, J.G. Preston asks a question that every Congressman who supports H.R. 5, the bill to put a $250,000 cap on damages for pain-and-suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits, should be asking: Why are lives lost to medical malpractice not as valuable as other lives?
This Wednesday, The New York Times ran an article on the rising monetary value that different federal agencies assign to human life.
In formulating different safety regulations, federal agencies perform a cost-benefit analysis. They weigh the monetary cost of implementing a new safety device against the monetary value of the lives that such added regulation would save.
So, for example, when the Department of Transportation recently was considering whether to mandate stronger car roofs – a safety improvement that would save an estimated 135 lives annually that would otherwise be lost in rollover accidents – the DOT weighed the added cost of the reinforced roofs against the dollar value of the lives lost (135 lives x $6.1 million value per life) and concluded that the money spent on reinforcing car roofs would be worth it.
Each federal agency gets to assign its own value to human life. All federal agencies use a pretty similar econometric calculation for deriving the value of human life and this has resulted in a pretty similar value of human life across federal agencies. So, the FDA values each life at $7.9 million, the EPA values each life at $9.1 million and the DOT values each life at $6.1 million.
One constant, across all federal agencies, is that the value of human life is increasing. Over time, people are placing higher and higher premiums on their own lives and safety and that gets inputted into the econometric formula, driving up the value that federal agencies assign to human life.
The Office of Management and Budget now recommends that federal agencies assign a value to human life of between five and ten million dollars.
As J.G. Preston points out, the upshot of all this is that H.R. 5, the bill that would place a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, essentially says that lives lost to medical malpractice (and there are more than 100,000 of them annually, three times as many lives as we lose in car accidents) are worth less than the lives lost to, say, environmental pollution or food poisoning or flimsy car roofs.
Does that make any sense at all?
I think when a lot of people hear about capping damages in medical malpractice lawsuits they tend to support the idea in the abstract. What they don’t realize is that, when Congressional Republicans talk capping damages in medical malpractice cases, they’re talking about valuing a human life less than a $250,000 Mercedes Benz CLK.
For more on different aspects of H.R. 5, you can read Professor Alberto Bernabe’s comprehensive post here.

This blog in maintained by Boston medical malpractice lawyers at The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C. It does not offer legal advice, nor should you construe it as offering legal advice on a medical malpractice claim that you should have.