In wrongful death cases and in cases involving permanent injuries that require a life-time to care, it is common for estimates to be made of the "value of the life" or "time needed for care" from actuarial tables that allegedly reflect the particulars of the plaintiff. However, with the growing sophistication of genetic analysis, will actuarial tables become a thing of the past?
Researchers recently announced that they had tentatively identified genes that appear to contribute to a long life. Will similar assessments be done to ascertain if one has a shortened life written in one's genes?
The issue is, of course, much more complicated than one's genes. Prior posts have noted the interaction between genes and the environment, particularly in the form of methylation. [See, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methylation.] It is this interplay that tends to explain, at least in part, why identical twins often do not have the same health outcomes even when their lifestyles are similar, but not identical. Further, as the researchers note, such genetic assessments are a partial explanation, at best. A healthy lifestyle and other environmental factors play a very important role in one's ultimate length of life.
It is thus too early to believe that genetic assessments will substitute for actuarial tables in the near future. But, as the assessments become more sophisticated, they may provide another piece of information for triers of fact to consider.
Information on the New England Centenarian Study and the report on genes and lifespan can be found at http://www.bumc.bu.edu/centenarian/overview/ and http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?