>Can we place a price on life?

>Think about the situation where keeping a terminal patient alive costs more with each day. The last month some patients are alive costs millions and millions, which some people would argue would be better spent on people we know are going to live. Yet think from the other perspective; imagine that terminal patient was your spouse. Now I imagine the price you’d be willing to pay to keep them alive that little bit longer just went up a hell of a lot.

A book was recently published on the subject, in which a husband had to spend his life savings on keeping his wife alive as a terminal patient. In the end he went into masses of debt and had to stop paying.

What does this make you think? Can we put a price on life? Does a point come when you say you’d rather keep the money rather than keeping someone alive an extra day?

One comment

  • >I'm not surprised this topic didn't get any responses. It's a very tricky subject. Most liberal minded people would strongly object to the idea of pricing life, and indeed this is where I find myself sitting too.Yet we cannot deny that there are markets for body parts, and therefore it is possible for people to place a price on life, even if it isn't just or proper that they do so. Healthcare services have to do this to some degree on a daily basis. And black markets exist that realise the more sinister aspects of our imagination when this topic springs to mind. Those black markets, where people sell people, either to work, to hunt, to have sex with, or even to beat and torture, are unfortunately not limited to films.However the 'should' about this matter is something we can actually learn from hospitals. Doctors, and hospital bureacrats don't really price life. What they do is weigh up different lives and see who should be prioritised in terms of what help the hospital can provide. And this is exactly what society as a whole needs to be able to do, especially as healthcare costs are mounting throughout rich countries. Can we ever say extending someone's life is not worth a million pounds? No. For life will always be more valuable than money. Yet can we say we simply can't afford a million pounds without feeling shame? Of course! If the state spending a million pounds on person A extends their life for a month, but leaves us without the million pounds to save person B for years then we cannot afford it. The example given in the introductory text is admittedly more complex, as it implies that there must come a point when the husband can no longer afford to keep his wife alive. Yet when is that point? It's often possible for people to get in more and more debt. So when does the point come where we say 'I can't afford any more debt'? My answer is probably going to be unsatisfying but it depends entirely on the individual case. The husband needs to make that decision together with his wife, and should not feel guilt for not extending his terminal wife's life an extra week at great expense. With rapidly ageing societies across the world questions such as these are going to become increasingly important in the years ahead, and it's very important that we be able to answer them.

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