This crux in the news: $93,000 Cancer Drug: How Much Is a Life Worth?

Monday, 27 September 2010

$93,000 Cancer Drug: How Much Is a Life Worth?

Cancer patients, brace yourselves. Many new drug treatments cost nearly $100,000 a year, sparking fresh debate about how much a few months more of life is worth. AP

This rather serious question comes with huge assumptions and two completely obvious answers.

The cost of anything, the worth of anything, is what the market will bear. In other words, your life is worth exactly as much as you are willing and able to pay for it. If you have $93,000 extra dollars, your life seems to be worth that much at least.

Oh, oh, oh, but that’s not what you mean, is it? What you mean is how much should everyone be forced—literally forced: Medicare is tax funded and refusal to pay taxes results in men with guns taking your possessions and incarcerating you in rape factories—to pay for a life?

A woman I grew up with died this weekend. She delivered twin girls a few days before. I barely knew her but I’d probably have given several thousand dollars—which I in no way have to give—to save her so her girls could grow up with a mom. If her life could have been saved with simple money there would have been another hundred friends like me to make that fictional $93,000 in a weekend of phone calls and emails. We all die though and all the money in the world may defer it but can’t change it.

Now let’s pretend it’s someone I don’t know who needs the money. Someone whose plight is as heart-rending as Katherine’s. Someone who did nothing wrong to get jammed up. Someone I still care about. Yes, some money. But how much? This is the problem, isn’t it?

There are over 300 million Americans right now. Let’s say, to be overly fair that I’d personally care either way if half of them died. Now, we have 150 million Americans who need my money.

My combined accounts and assets minus my ongoing bills and debts sit somewhere around $15,000. Let’s split that 150,000,000 ways.

Here is the meat of the matter. Even those I would care about and spend my last dollar on if had the right to choose either way are worth 0.001 dollars—or 1/10th of one penny—to me. In other words, taken as a whole: your lives are without discernible value to me.

Maybe it would be a good idea to start valuing your own life a little more and forcing others to keep you on life support in complete misery for a few extra months a little less.

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