Penn Bioethics Seminar Series (PBS): Patrick Gurian, PhD
12:00pm - 1:00pm • Hybrid: 1402 Blockley Hall, 423 Guardian Drive (and virtual via Zoom)
Value of a Life: Is it Making a Difference?
Environmental Engineering Program Head
civil, architectural and environmental engineering
Federal regulations and rulemaking require benefit-cost analyses that involve weighing the cost of investment against the protection of human health and life achieved by the regulation. The policies and rules resulting from these analyses and estimates are further impacted by political, social, and psychological factors. In this talk, we will consider whether the practice of quantifying estimates of investment to reduce risk is achieving positive outcomes. This is explored through 3 case studies: 1) the response of the federal government to arsenic in drinking water, 2) the response of the federal government to bioterrorism risk, and 3) efforts to mitigate carbon monoxide risk in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The divergence from strict adherence to benefit-cost considerations is most strongly demonstrated in the management of bioterrorism risks to civilians. This divergence is consistent with favoritism towards societally powerful groups, and with the common tendency to highly value changes from baseline conditions and overweight small risks. Understanding how the results of benefit-cost analyses are used in practice may better enable us to identify and effect opportunities for meaningful risk reduction.
Lunch provided for in-person participants
Livestreaming available via Zoom