Friday, February 26, 2010

How much is one life worth?

In the last day there have been reports in the Australian media about Claire Murray, a 24 year old who has only a few months to live unless she receives a new liver.  Opinion is divided on whether she should.  The reason:  Claire is a drug addict.  Claiming to be reformed and prepared to embrace this new chance of life, but in reality 'clean' just 8 weeks.  Anyone who has known addicts will know that this is no assurance...especially as it is likely that at the moment she is living in somewhat of a controlled environment.  Claire has even less credibility than other addicts...for just last year she received her first liver transplant, but took drugs again after.                                                                          

As an alternative to putting her back on the list of those waiting for a liver donor, the government is proposing to fund a live  transplant (where part of the liver of a family member is transplanted) in New Zealand (as such procedures are not carried out in Australia).  Cost is estimated at $230,000 or about 9.5million rs.  An amount that if applied elsewhere, particularly in areas where water quality or lack of food is an issue, could save so many more lives.  Should Claire be funded for another transplant?  I feel very sorry for her family who face losing her...but at the same time find it difficult to justify spending so much money where it will likely fail again  And where there are alternative uses that are assured of success.

This is not an isolated incident.  Frequently there are cases where huge amounts are spent to save or even just to improve the life of a single person.  In rescues from yachts at sea, cliffs or other dangerous situations of the individual's own choosing.  In provision of aides at school for children with disabilities. In expensive medical treatment for a huge amount of people.  It always interests me to think what this cost is balanced against, which is the saving of so many on our planet who have not even the basics.  In any situation, people tend to become emotional about the one - for some, naturally as it is their own family member, for others, simply because they find it easier to feel compassion for an individual rather than the 'statistics'.  There is no right answer, but I never see these questions raised in the media, and I wonder why...


  1. very pertinenet question..but there should be clear guidlines by the govt. for each case..if they will spend for all such cases then its ok, but she should be a special case.

    and saving a person from suicide, whatever he/she might be is a law and order situation and the job of govt..monetary consideration vcant be calculated this way.

  2. I dont think Claire should be funded.. Whats the point when she started doing drugs after her first transplant.. Sometimes you have to be judged by your past and there is no escape..

    I am sure there are other things which require to be funded.. She chose her path so let her die that way.. I feel sorry for her family..

  3. First I would like to justify the way I would be answering this. I have been studying a course related to Ethics as a part of my management training where in we try and analyze cases of ethical dilemma. This is a perfect case of ethical dilemma. I'll try and apply what I have learned her.

    1st option: Consider them benefit of more number of people.
    In this case: Many lives could be saved against one- Don't fund.

    2nd option: Decide on the basis of the message you want to convey
    In this case: The Govt. doesn't want to send the message that they will help out drug addicts against the other burning issues in the country- Don't fund.

    3rd option: Decide on the end result
    In this case: There is no guarantee she will be clean after the transplant- no answer as per this theory

    4th option: Virtue Ethics.Decide based on an individuals moral and ethical values.
    In this case: Depends on the decision maker.

    I guess as per my evaluation- the scale is tilting towards, don't fund.