Estimability and estimation of expected years of life lost due to a hazardous exposure

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Abstract

Expected years of life lost is an important concept in public-health and legal issues. We describe conditions under which the expected years of life lost due to hazardous exposure is estimable (identifiable) from epidemiologic data. We show that, in general, the average years of life lost among exposed subjects dying at a given age (the age-specific expected years of life lost) is not identifiable, although the average years of life lost among all exposed subjects (the unconditional expected years of life lost) is identifiable from an unbiased epidemiologic study. We also show that the average years of life lost among all exposed subjects dying of a specific cause (the cause-specific expected years of life lost) is not identifiable. We discuss the implications of these results for compensation schemes based on years of life lost, and compare such schemes with those based on the probability of causation.

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