The Cost of Human Life/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on February 6, 2015


In law school, I was introduced to the economic model associated with the University of Chicago in assessing what one should pay in order to save a human life. If, for example, a safer piece of equipment will cost millions of dollars to produce, and will save 10 lives, is that cost an advisable one to assume? Today, I heard this question played out once again. A mother of 3 lost her life in NY at a railroad crossing when her SUV was stuck on the tracks. An expert was asked why such crossings cannot be made fail-safe. The answer was that the $2 million price tag per crossing was too steep a price for officials to mandate such a safety measure.

I wondered about how much is human life worth. How much should society pay to ensure absolute safety. As a mediator, my mind soon wandered to divorce scenarios . If one litigates rather than mediates a divorce, s/he may pick up x extra dollars. Yet the anguish to the parties, their children, and families is rarely put into this cost analysis. How much is it worth to spare loved ones from the harshest costs of contested divorces? Is any price justifiable? What is it worth to spare people from torment?  Yet another factor to consider when evaluating the worth of divorce mediation.