The potency of life
(or cost of life
) is an economic value assigned to life in general, or to specific living organisms. In social and political sciences, it is the marginal cost
of death prevention in a certain class of circumstances. In many studies the value also includes the quality of life
, the expected life time remaining, as well as the earning potential of a given person especially for an after the fact payment in lawsuits for wrongful death.
As such, it is a statistical term, the cost of reducing the average number of deaths by one. It is an important issue in a wide range of disciplines including economics, health care, adoption, political economy
, insurance, worker safety, environmental impact assessment
, and globalization.
In industrial nations, the justice system considers a human life "priceless", thus illegalizing any form of slavery; i.e., humans cannot be bought at any price. However, with a limited supply of resources or infrastructural capital (e.g. ambulances), or skill at hand, it is impossible to save
every life, so some trade-off must be made. Also, this argumentation neglects the statistical context of the term. It is not commonly attached to lives of individuals or used to compare the value of one person's life relative to another person's. It is mainly used in circumstances of saving lives as opposed to taking lives or "producing" lives.