Objectives: In the Netherlands, allocation decisions have not yet been explicitly based on the Value of Statistical Life. However, when policy makers decide whether or not to implement life saving interventions this trade-off is made implicitly. This study aimed to gain insights into this trade-off, hereafter referred to as Implicit Value of Statistical Life (IVSL), by means of a retrospective investment analysis of life saving interventions implemented in the Netherlands.
Methods: A literature search was conducted to find life saving intervention cases meeting the requirements for IVSL calculation. A final sample of ten cases was included in the study concerning interventions implemented in different societal sectors. For each case, an IVSL estimate was calculated according to a uniform method.
Results: IVSL estimates derived from the intervention cases differed considerably and ranged from €1 to almost €11 million. Differences were most extreme when comparing IVSL estimates concerning interventions implemented in different societal sectors. However, IVSL estimates also varied greatly between interventions in the same sector and even within the same interventions when critical assumptions were altered.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that there are great imbalances between societal investments for preventing a statistical death. This highlights the need for further deliberation about how to improve transparency of policy decisions. An approach ex ante determining the Value of Statistical Life by means of empirical methods and based on societal preferences might circumvent the problems associated with the IVSL and needs further exploration.