Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

The Fraud of “If It Saves Just One Life It’s Worth It”

We have many people who claim that it is acceptable to do certain things with the excuse that – If It Saves Just One Life It’s Worth It.

Perhaps the best way to save lives is to kill anyone who uses this justification.

Will it save any lives?

We are supposed to stop considering risks and benefits. We are supposed to be afraid of being viewed as callous with the lives of others.

The reality is that whatever is being considered is probably going to kill more people than it will ever save – that is why they use scare tactics. If there were good reasons for what they want, they would not need scare tactics.

If It Saves Just One Life It’s Worth It.

Saving lives is good.

It’s For The Children.

Helping children is good.

The drug has a Black Box Warning! We can’t use that dangerous drug!

Black box warnings do point out possible problems with giving a medication.

All medications have side effects. Some of these side effects can result in death. Medications with lethal side effects include water and oxygen. These are medication, even though we use them every day without prescriptions. Too much oxygen can kill. Too much water can kill. Clearly, we need to protect people from these dangerous chemicals.

We need to prohibit exposure to water. We need to prohibit exposure to oxygen. If It Saves Just One Life It’s Worth It.

Would we save any lives? Of course not, but this isn’t about reality. This is about creating the appearance that opponents of whatever poorly considered idea are reckless and dangerous.

If It Saves Just One Life It’s Worth It means that the person does not know what he is discussing and that he does not want to know. Unintended consequences do not matter. Scare tactics are all that matter.

Image credit.
The unbalanced perspective of If It Saves Just One Life It’s Worth It in a picture.

Should this one theoretical life saved be more important than all of the damage done to everyone else?

Why do so few people consider that unintended consequences affect everything?

If this post can save even one person from falling for the fraud of If It Saves Just One Life It’s Worth It, then this post was worth it. 😉



  1. I’m very much inclined to agree.

    Whilst I’ve worked in H&S, I also have good statistical skills so I tend to look at some of these sayings in an analytical way. With something like this saying, I want to know the likelihood (i.e. the probability) that a life would be saved. Have we any idea of the probability behind that very big “IF”? In other words, what’s the likelihood that a life will actually BE saved?

    Then we need to work out the costs of “it” – what do we need to do to save this hypothetical life? How many man-hours (or even woman-hours) will it take to do whatever “it” is? What is the financial cost too, as this money needs to be earned by someone, and working to make that money is not itself without risk.

    Alternatively, what else will have to go by the board to pay for “it”? Could we find that “it” will take resources from something else that would save more lives? For instance, say we have two calls for an ambulance with only one available. We send our available vehicle to the person with chest pains and call one from further afield to the second patient; a pedestrian who has been hit by a large truck driving at 60mph somewhere out in the back of beyond, and we’re told that he “isn’t breathing” and the person on scene has no idea of CPR.

    Do we really bring this second ambulance at high speed from somewhere many miles away?

    In the first instance, we’re likely to save a life. In the second, we’re unlikely to save the life of the patient and we’re putting at risk the lives of the second crew, along with anyone who inadvertently gets in their way.

    No, it’s not always worth it.

  2. So, are you saying that the 8 minute response time standard doesn’t save all the lives it claims to? What? I think we’re about to enter a paradox if what you say is true. For surely, the great leaders of EMS wouldn’t adopt something that isn’t true to the best of available knowledge at the time, would they? And, think of the HEMS operators and their inability to make money if we stop flying patients as often as we do.

    Won’t someone think of the poor, penniless, pathetic helicopter crews? If they save at least one life, then that’s just another patient they can charge for services rendered (maybe) that probably didn’t need to be.

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