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The cost of human life

STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete (The Freeman) - February 23, 2021 - 12:00am

Really, how much does one human life cost? For all other things, even for living ones, this is a fairly easy question to answer. You buy a pig, cow, or chicken, based on the meat you get from them. We buy plants based on the cost of the food we get, or medicinal value and other use we may have. For all other items, may it be organic or inorganic, we usually can set a price. But what about a human being?

How much we value our lives, or the lives of others is much more than the financial net worth attached to us. Not only do we count the contribution to humanity as a whole, but we also value the sum total of our experiences as well as the relationships we have with each other. That’s why to each one, families, relatives, and loved ones would be more valuable than others --people we know more than people we don’t.

In the case of decisions involving human life, we always say we save it at all costs. Of course, that cost is limited and may vary from case to case. But in the case now of the COVID-19 pandemic, how does society, and the government, value human life? Consider the case of lockdowns, quarantines, or other such restrictions --doctors and medical scientists will readily admit these will decrease the number of cases and hence, deaths. The number might be open to argument, but definitely, these will.

The medical professionals will tell us that if we loosen restrictions, the number of cases, and deaths, will be higher than if we didn’t. But those concerned about the economy and business will argue that the lockdowns have caused economic contraction which led to loss of productivity, profit, livelihood, and jobs. Others will even argue it will lead to death of hunger without giving a single proof or data on how many people died of hunger due to the pandemic. The economic distress is real, especially for the poor. That’s why economic and political managers should be prudent enough to show the mortality rate caused by hunger due to COVID-19.

Otherwise, it becomes simply a choice between human life and financial profit. What is the cost of one human life and how much does it compare to the peso value of the derivative change in Gross Domestic Product of the country, or the income accounts of a city or province? How much more death should we allow in order to recharge the economy? If we know the mortality rate caused by hunger due to the pandemic, it becomes easier – we can compare life for life. If we know that more people will die of hunger due to the pandemic than those who will die directly from the infection, it’s an easy choice. But if the government can’t even come up with this metric, then it simply calculates the value of human life in pesos, devoid of emotional, experiential, and spiritual consideration, making man a commodity. Life as an economic cost – our lives to be manipulated as part of a curve, an equation, or statistics. So how much do you, or your loved ones, cost?

HUMAN LIFE
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