My Understanding Of The Value Of A Human Life

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The value of a human life is different for many people. For me, I believe that every human life is worth something, whether you think it is a certain amount of money or just being able to live how you want to. Depending on how you choose to live your life and what you believe in, will change how much a life is worth to you. For example, people like lawyers and others who work for the government have to put a dollar value on someone’s life based on different aspects like their jobs instead of who the person actually is. Some other views on life change depending on different beliefs like what is after death or if someone only sees the bad parts of life. However, a human life can have thousands of different values depending on each person.

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To be able to put a value on a life, I believe you need to know what a life really is. A human life isn’t just the amount of time a person lives. A life is every single moment and memory you make and the people that surround you. Most people do not realize how important another person’s life can be to them. For example, in the movie Seven Pounds starring Will Smith, his character Ben shows how he is depressed after losing his soon to be wife and makes a plan to help other’s lives with his own. This movie shows Ben test and determine if people are worth his help. This is shown as he tells a man who is mistreating his patients that what he is doing with his life is wrong and doesn’t deserve his help. Later in the movie we see how he gives his life to help a blind man and the women he loves. This is only one view on life, and there are thousands of others who see their life and the lives of others in different ways. One view is from the eyes of Roger Ebert who despite having cancer and eventually unable to speak, saw that he needed to live his life doing what he wanted. For Ebert, death is a reminder to live life to the fullest. He believed that once you die, you life is remembered by “the memories your loved ones carry” (Roger Ebert). While many people see a human life in different views, the most argumentative part of a life is how much it is worth.

A human life is worth a certain amount of money depending on many aspects of their life. For example, in the article by Amanda Ripley “What’s A Life Worth?” she shows how the government has put a dollar value on a life. This happens often but we only notice it when there is a major casualty. For example, in Ripley’s article, she describes how after Sept. 11 family members started to file into the crimson seats at the Norwalk, Conn city hall to hear about how the government was going to distribute money to those who were affected by Sept. 11. The job of figuring out how much money to give to each family was given to special master Kenneth Feinberg. He was to first try to persuade the families affected by Sept. 11 to join the federal Victim Compensation Fund which would pay mass victims and their families without placing blame. To determine the amount of money each family receives, Feinberg had to view different aspects of the victims life like how much the victim would have made in their lifetime, how big their families were, and finally, their dollar worth is deducted by any other money they are receiving and other rules. To put a certain amount of money on a person’s life based on their job to me is unfair for the victim and their families that are left behind. For most families, the result is closer to zero which is why many people believe everyone should receive the same amount of money. Over time, his beliefs change into something I also believe in. Feinberg describes his new belief in his article, “What Is The Value Of A Human Life?” which is that all victims should receive the same compensation. The reason his belief changes to this is that as he meet with the Sept. 11 families, he began to question the laws he had trained in. The law conflicted with his moral beliefs and he was no longer able to base his decisions purely by the standards of the law. When he got the chance to make up for what he did to the Sept. 11 families with the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, he put the beliefs of himself as a citizen above the beliefs of him as a lawyer. In the end, he did what he thought was right and gave the same amount of compensation to the students and faculty that were victims of this shooting.

With so many different ways to view the worth and value of a human life, I also looked at what people believed in after death. Depending on what you believe in can have a great impact on how you choose to live your life. For me, I believe there is an after life and that we have nothing to fear once it is our time. This is also the belief of Roger Ebert as he says that he does not fear death because he believes there is nothing about death to fear. Even though Ebert was on the verge of death, he still lived his life doing what he loved and enjoyed every moment he could with his wife. He understood that death is a part of our lives and that we can not let that change how we choose to live it. While Ebert looked at life and the after life without any fear, there are those who fear the worst. For example, if you look at Hamlet’s Soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, he describes how he believes that after death it could either be like a dream where we leave our mortal life and journey into something new. For Hamlet, he sees death as an escape from his life of pain and tragedy. He may not see his life the same way that we do but, he does understand that each life means something, whether it is good or bad.

While there are many views, opinion, and ideas of how much a life is worth or its value, I believe that each life is worth something. Whether you believe that your life is not worth much like the character from Seven Pounds or you see your life as the memories that you choose to leave behind with your loved ones like Roger Ebert, each opinion puts some sort of value on a life. To me the dollar value that is put on a person’s or victims life, according to the government and the law, is not what truly defines us. What truly defines our lives and gives them value is what we believe in and what we are able to give to others and the world. 

16 August 2021

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