Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Value of a Human Life? Bankers, firefighters, Iraqis, Afghanis, Insurance Patients

What Is the Value of a Human Life? « Kenneth Feinberg | This I Believe:
After September 11, I confronted the challenge of placing a value on human life by calculating different amounts of compensation for each and every victim. The law required that I give more money to the stockbroker, the bond trader, and the banker, than to the waiter, the policeman, the fireman, and the soldier at the Pentagon. This is what happens every day in courtrooms throughout our nation. Our system of justice has always been based upon this idea — that compensation for death should be directly related to the financial circumstances of each victim.

But as I met with the 9/11 families and wrestled with issues surrounding the valuation of lives lost, I began to question this basic premise of our legal system. Trained in the law, I had always accepted that no two lives were worth the same in financial terms. But now I found the law in conflict with my growing belief in the equality of all life. “Mr. Feinberg, my husband was a fireman and died a hero at the World Trade Center. Why are you giving me less money than the banker who represented Enron? Why are you demeaning the memory of my husband?”

9/11 Life Worth $1.8 million; Iraqi Life, $2,000. What Does It Mean? | World | AlterNet:
Using publicly available numbers, one can calculate that the U.S. government values an innocent civilian slaughtered by al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001 at $1.8 million, and an Iraqi civilian killed by Marines at $2,000.

How much are Iraqi and Afghan lives worth? The thorny debate over compensation payments and why it matters to the U.S. war effort. - By Will Oremus - Slate Magazine:
In 2007, an Iraqi civilian from Baghdad filed a claim for damages against the U.S. Army. In the paperwork he completed, he explained that his son Wa'ad had been driving a taxi one February morning and was on his way home to refuel when a passenger flagged him down. Moments later, a U.S. tank stationed half a mile away opened fire, hitting the taxi with two missiles. Wa'ad was found burned to death inside.

The Iraqi asked the United States for $10,000 in compensation: $5,000 for his son's death, and $5,000 for the ruined taxi.

The claim was more or less typical of the thousands filed by Iraqis against the United States under the Foreign Claims Act since the war there began in 2003. Many were denied, often based on technicalities. But this man was among the luckier ones: The United States paid him $2,800 for son and taxi combined.

The Value of a Human Life: $129,000 - TIME:
In theory, a year of human life is priceless. In reality, it's worth $50,000.

That's the international standard most private and government-run health insurance plans worldwide use to determine whether to cover a new medical procedure. More simply, insurance companies calculate that to make a treatment worth its cost, it must guarantee one year of "quality life" for $50,000 or less. New research, however, would argue that that figure is far too low.