05 December 2010

What is the value of a human life?

I have been thinking about value a lot lately.

I have clients now in my consulting business where I have to place a dollar value on my time. And I have to decide: Do I charge them hourly or do I charge them project by project? And sometimes I wonder if I am over-charging them or under-charging them. I don't know that there is a right or wrong answer really. But it is worth thinking about and worth examining from time to time.

That being said, I also think about the value of our time in general. I recently listened to a story on NPR that was addressing the value of a human life. The attorney spoke about compensation for families after the death of loved ones, particularly, the 9/11 families.

What is the value of a human life?


Is one life more valuable than another? Is there a monetary value that is different from person to person?

The attorney versus the night time cleaning person. The doctor versus the patient?

How do we assign value to life and how do we place a monetary amount on that?

There was no monetary value placed on Grace's life. She died before birth. Even if we had chosen to get some kind of childhood life insurance for her, I'm sure it would be small in nature. Even then, would a check having been received in the mail for $10,000 after her death made anything better? I doubt it.

And still there are real financial implications to families after their children die. Jobs are lost. Mental health capacities are reduced. Even jobs that are kept are difficult sometimes to maintain and return to.

And let's not forget the emotional value of a life. This is what interests me even more.

In this case, is Grace's life more valuable now that she is gone because so much time and energy is spent on helping bereaved parents. Is this even worth bringing up? What if she did decided that in her own life, she had no real drive or motivation to do anything other than what she had to do to make ends meet. Would her life be any more or less valuable than the person next door?

My emotional life would be different for sure if Grace were here. My emotional state would be different.

I have continued to say over and over again that I would trade my more realized and aware self for less awareness if Grace were here. But as time passes, as I learn more about myself, about my responses to grief, about what she continues to teach me daily, is this still true?

There are no easy answers to any of these questions. In fact, I hardly think there are answers at all. But that doesn't mean the questions can't be raised.

What is the value of your own life? Are you living up to what you think it should be? Do you need to?

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