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Institute of Advanced Study

Setting a Value on Human Life

A joint seminar hosted by the Durham Forum for Health and the Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University

Lindisfarne Centre, St Aidan’s College, University of Durham

4.00pm arrivals and tea and coffee, 4.30pm start, buffet at 6.30pm

In developing its guidance on the use of medicines, treatments and procedures within the NHS, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) uses quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) to measure how many extra months or years of reasonable quality of life a person might gain as a result of a treatment. It implies a value on human life of about £30,000 per year. What does this mean? How does the valuation compare with other ways of valuing human life? What difference do such valuations make to the decisions of those who use them? Is it helpful and ethical to value human life on these terms? The Durham Forum for Health and the Institute of Advanced Study are combining to host this joint discussion to mark the end of the Institute’s season on ‘Being Human’. 


Chair:  Professor Chris Higgins, Vice Chancellor and Warden, Durham University 

An economist’s view: Professor Mike Jones-Lee

Professor of Economics at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, specialising in the economics of safety and health. Advisor to government departments in the UK, including Health and Transport, and abroad.  Specialist Adviser to the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs inquiry into government policy on the management of risk. 

A theologian’s view: Dr Robert Song

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theology, Durham University, where he specialises in matters of Church and society, particularly Christian ethics & human genetics. 

A surgeon’s view: Professor John Dark

Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon and past Director of Cardio-Pulmonary Transplantation at the Freeman Hospital. He is also a member of the Ethics Committee, the British Transplantation Society, and President-Elect of the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation. 

A psychiatrist’s view: Dr Julian Hughes

Consultant in Old Age Psychiatry, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust and an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University. Adviser on palliative care and ethics for NICE/SCIE guidelines on dementia. Currently on the dementia working party of Nuffield Council on Bioethics.  

A lawyer’s view: Professor Deryck Beyleveld

Professor of Law and Bioethics at Durham University. He has a special interest in the regulation and ethics of Biotechnology and Medical Science. He has participated in several EU projects on law and ethics in medicine.