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Putting Value Upon Human Life

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How can one put a value upon life? This is a difficult question that cannot be defined without considering many factors. Everybody has different convictions and ethics; this makes defining life’s value an overwhelming undertaking. I believe each individual holds a personal value to their life, every one of us appreciates various parts of life more than others. While life can be classified by different values such as ethics, achievements, and courage, there is no real way to gauge somebody’s life in terms of monetary value, because it is priceless. Sure you can calculate an individual’s income or their vocation, but a profession isn’t a life at all.

The question remains, should someone’s life be worth more than another’s? Morally, I believe the answer is no, however, after the 9/11 tragedies the government was placed with this daunting task. To try and help grieving families in need of support the federal government started a fund. This ideally seemed like a generous solution that could help a lot of people. Yet, this meant that some victim’s lives would be prioritized over others and involved a multi-step evaluation to determine compensation. First, they would determine how much the individual would have earned had there been no attacks. This would mean that a banker’s family would earn much more than the family of a security guard in the buildings. This begins the controversy because they had to decide if a banker is worth more to society than a security guard who lost his life while evacuating others? Then the fund adds “$250,000 for pain and suffering.. Tack on an extra $50,000 for a spouse and each child” (Ripley, “What is Life Worth”). This indicates that a married man with multiple children is valued more than a married man with no children. This entails that society holds a higher value to those with children. Yet this is unfair because to some fertility was not an option, or couples had not yet gotten the opportunity to have children before their life was taken.

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To make matters worse, after figuring out how much your loved one was “worth” now you have to deduct Social Security death benefits, life insurance, pension, and worker’s compensation. Now you’re left with heartache and hardly anything from the federal fund. This led many families to dispute the funds and raise many important questions. Is a rich man with high life insurance, high pension, and no children worth less than a poor man with no life insurance, no job, and ten children (Ripley 13)? The response to every one of these inquiries is no. The lives of all ought to be esteemed at the same price if you are going to set a price tag at all. A rich man should be equivalent to a poor man; a lady without any kids ought to value the same as a lady with seven kids. The fact of the matter is that if the federal government is going to put a monetary value on human life, then it should have been equivalent for everybody. When I used the Human Life Calculator I was astonished by the results, as my life was worth nothing past my savings. I do not agree with the results because I hold my life to a greater value. This gave me insight into the calculations behind the government’s funding for the victims, which showed me that there truly can not be monetary value on someone’s life.

This is not to say that one must not put a value on their life. Life holds value when you find your purpose and what you love to do. Roger Ebert once said, “When I am writing my problems become invisible and I am the same person I always was. All is well. I am as I should be.” Ebert was an optimist who had a buoyant perception of life, even when faced with misfortune he was able to prevail and find a new way to still do what he loved. In comparison to Hamlet’s Soliloquy, Hamlet is a pessimist who does not see the value of his life and only sees the negative in every situation. In lines two through four of the soliloquy, Hamlet expresses that life is a lack of power: the living are at the mercy of the blows of outrageous fortune, and the question looms whether “To be or not to be.” Hamlet and Ebert contrast greatly in outlooks as they represent the spectrums between optimism and pessimism. Ebert represents how valuable life is when you find your passion while Hamlet demonstrates a lack of hope when you hold no value.

Life’s worth cannot be dictated by monetary value but by one’s ethics, achievements, and courage, there is no way to gauge somebody’s life, because it is priceless. Individuals must rely upon themselves to make their lives significant and important. Eventually, it is your own responsibility to discover your passion and establish your worth to flourish.  

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