Coronavirus: The Value of a Human Life

Our time brings us towards the limits of the thinkable. How do we calculate a person’s life? Anyone who has ever signed a “life insurance” knows how much they would leave to their heirs if they died. This was an individual invoice between a premium paid and the amount paid out.

Now this bill is being drawn up worldwide, for all of us. How do we calculate every single death from COVID-19? How do we compare each individual dead?

The International Monetary Fund released an outlook on the “global economy” this week. Accordingly, we expect the worst “economic crisis” worldwide since the “Great Depression” of the 1930s. So you can calculate down to the last cent how much “money” we lose because of the corona virus.

How many people do we lose? How do we compare this number? Do we compare them to the number of deaths from a “normal” flu wave?Do we compare them to the number of deaths from the “Spanish flu” hundred years ago? Do we compare them to the number of people who die every year anyway?

It is precisely on this question that opinions begin to differ. At what price are we saving a human life? What is someone’s life worth to me? What restrictions am I willing to accept? How much money am I willing to give up?

There are now quite precise estimates about which measures have which effects on the infection rate (and thus on the death rate). How does the opening of stores affect it? How does the wearing of masks? What would be the consequences of school openings? How many additional deaths do we accept? Do we accept any at all?

What is a single life worth? Ultimately there are only two answers: Everything. Or nothing.

“Whoever saves one life saves the world entire”, it says in the Talmud.

How will we decide?

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