August 17, 2006

PGA: Value of a Life

PGA: Value of a Life

There are always gems from pre-interviews with guests that don’t make it on air. After last night’s show, Chelsea wished that she’d heard Rabbi Hirschfield and Professor Singer debate the way to measure a life’s value. To Singer, lives are valuable if they’re personally fulfilling. For Hirshfield, a life well lived has made contributions to society. (Singer might have replied that fulfilled constituents will make the best contributions anyway.)

Ultimately, Hirshfield told Chelsea, it’s clear that we don’t yet understand the value of a life. If we did, we’d have our priorities in order. We’d have consensus about whether healthcare is a right or a privilege; we’d have firm boundaries about when to go to heroic efforts to save the 95 year old and when to tackle soaring infant mortality rates instead.

More evidence that the debate is undecided? You’re still hashing it out on the comment thread. Last night, comments from Allison and Sopper14 made it on air, but there were some beautiful, heartfelt ones that didn’t. Here are two:

My response is very concrete; my husband died and my son and I dealt with the compensation decision and process. What Kenneth Feinberg said then is still true:

“There is not one family member I’ve met who wouldn’t gladly give back the check, or, in many cases, their own lives to have that loved one back. ‘Happy’ never enters into this equation.???

A few days before the attacks, I felt death pass me over and fly toward my husband. We discussed it, but I was powerless to prevent anything. I would have given anything then, or now, to prevent it or have him back and would have exchanged places. That is what love means.

Laur, in a comment to Open Source, August 7, 2006.

The net value of my mother and my stepfather’s life must become 0 in order for them to retain any value. We are in the process of putting everything in to my name so they do not lose everything.

My stepfather is facing major health problems and they do not have health insurance. They own a very small business and a house. They simply cannot afford health insurance and they have gone without, much to my chagrin. I also do not have insurance but the risk is less. Last week he started seeing blood in his urine and things have not gone well. The initial tests have already cost a couple of thousand and the upcoming procedures would bankrupt them. We are scrambling to get everything in my name in order to save their future.

My stepfather trusts me very much but it can’t be great for his dignity that he will have nothing in his name…I will know tomorrow if I get approved to buy their house and thus the value of their life; I will consequently know tomorrow if they will retain the value of their future.

nother, in a comment to Open Source, August 9, 2006.

After listening to the show last night, what do you wish you’d heard?

Related Content


  • Old Nick

    Nice work, Greta. Thank you, from your constituency, for the ‘distillation’.

  • nother

    I’ve have been very concerned with the value of my stepfather’s life in the last few weeks – on many different levels. At the same time we were rushing to take everything out of his name and put it mine in case of major health problems, he incurred major questions about his health. It began to dawn on me, if he were to die; my mom would be left alone. For a couple of days I had to face the possibility of my mom not only being widowed but losing their house and net value as a consequence of his illness. Beyond the emotional sorrow I would have uncured, my life would have thus been radically altered if he died, I would have had to focus the majority of my future on supporting my mother’s life.

    Well for the moment, it looks like those warm blinding yellow rays of sun are directed our way. I will write my given name in ink today and this mans monetary value will become my monetary value – and my mom will finally have some health coverage.

    My stepfather is a man who ostensibly should have no value to my life, we share no blood. What we do share now, is my mother? And when my mother decided to make a stake with this man’s life, his live became valuable to me – in many ways. My stepfather had some land and property passed down through his family and because of these health insurance circumstances, this land has now been passed to me – thus raising my net monetary value. What’s “valuableâ€? to me though is, he gave my mother love and marriage, thus giving me sound of mind. I was around seventeen when they met and her having someone she trusted and loved, enabled me to join the Navy and venture on. Up until that point my mother and I had traveled a precarious route, to say the least, and now I had the opportunity to make sorties on life – geographically, emotionally, and intellectually, and uninhibitedly!