Monthly Archives: August 2016

Worth to save an Australian life

Young lives are worth a bit more, according to the PM&C guideline for bureaucrats drawing up regulations, and we’re also prepared to pay more to avoid particularly painful and gruesome deaths.

The latter is likely to be a factor in our willingness to spend disproportionately large amounts trying to minimise the already very low risk of death by shark while doing very little to counteract that much more successful serial killer, the common ladder. Sharks killed just two of last year, but ladders averaged 23 deaths a year over the decade to 2012.

The statistics are useful in busting two of the more common myths regularly regurgitated by media: “Human life is priceless” and its close relative, “If it only saves one life, it’s worth it”.

The reality is that human life is constantly being priced – every time a road is designed, every time another safety regulation is mooted, every time an expensive new drug is considered for government subsidy, every time a court decides appropriate compensation for wrongful death. Abacuses of actuaries are constantly on the case.

If it was true that “life is priceless” and “if it only saves one life, it’s worth it”, all our cars would be speed limited to 30 kilometres an hour and every intersection would at least have traffic lights, if not a flyover.

You could forget horse riding and rock fishing, bicycles would be kept to walking pace and anyone attempting to mount a motorcycle would be shot to save them from falling off.

The disconnect between acceptable risk and an over-the-top nanny state goes further that the “statistical value of life”. It also has to consider aesthetic values, convenience and the publicity value of some high-profile deaths.

Activity finished the year weak as home building

However, a level below 50 points indicates activity in the sector is winding down.

Ai Group head of policy Peter Burn said the construction sector closed out 2016 with a third straight month of contracting conditions.

“Activity, new orders and employment were all down on the previous month and activity in each of the four sub-sectors shrank in December,” he said in a statement.

“The lower level of new orders suggests we cannot expect a sustained turnaround over the first few months of 2017.”

HIA senior economist Shane Garrett said both house and apartment building activity contracted again during the month, however the pace of decline slowed in the apartment sub-sector.

“During 2017, we expect new dwelling starts to decline although the carry over from homes commenced last year means that activity on the ground will remain elevated for much of the year ahead,” Mr Garrett said.

Take the new lung-cancer drugs from Merck & Co, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche Holding, for instance. They are part of a new class of treatments known as immune therapies that harness the body’s own cells to fight tumours and tantalise doctors with the possibility of defeating one of the most common causes of death in the developed world.

The drugs are a game-changer for some patients, helping them live more than twice as long. They’re also expensive: from $US12,500 to $US13,100 a month of therapy. And now they’re getting combined with other medicines. Bristol-Myers estimates a cocktail of its Opdivo drug with another immune product, Yervoy, for melanoma patients costs between $US145,000 and $US256,000 a year. It’s received “very little push-back on the pricing,” says chief commercial officer Murdo Gordon, because patients are living long enough to come back for annual check-ups for the first time.