When ‘Moneyball’ Meets Medicine

DALYs (disability-adjusted life years) are a better way to quantify life and health, similar to wins above replacement in sports :

DALYs are calculated first by measuring how many potential years of life are lost when a person dies. DALYs then incorporate the total years lived with disability — a measure based on international estimates of how much each nonfatal condition detracts from perfect health. Being paralyzed, for example, is considered close to half as healthy as perfect health, so every year you live with paralysis, you have lost the equivalent of half a year of healthy life.

It is uncomfortable to place a value on people’s lives but we only have so much time and research funds available. 

In terms of death, scientists reported, lung cancer kills about 200,000 more people than road injuries annually. But measured by DALYs, road injuries are almost two and a half times worse for humanity. That’s because most fatal victims of lung cancer are in their 60s, 70s and 80s, while those most likely to die of road injury are in their 20s and 30s — and road injuries cause almost 40 times more disabilities.

All the more reason to push for self driving cars.