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Thursday, 26 March 2020

Senicide (4): how much is a human life worth?

The Hippocratic Oath requires doctors to do their utmost to save human lives, without doing harm to their patients. Latter addition "is believed to date from the 17th century" (Wiki). Governmental budgets define how much money we are willing to spend on our healthcare system. Hence, some countries have a fragile system, while others have an abundant healthcare system.

National demographics will define how many people may use the healthcare system. Obviously, older people are (much) more likely to require healthcare than younger people. Some countries have more younger people, other countries more older people.

The Wiki list of countries by median age "divides a population into two numerically equally sized groups - that is, half the people are younger than this age and half are older":
- in Japan (#3) half the population of c.126 mio is > 47.3 years, with 52 corona deaths;
- in Italy (#5) half the population of c.60 mio is > 45.5 years, with 6,820 corona deaths;
- in China (#67) half the population of c.1,400 mio is > 37.4 years, with 3,281 corona deaths;
- in Uganda (#229) half the population of c.45 mio is > 15.8 years, with 8 corona cases.

Several media are already focussing on the absurd differences in the above numbers:
Telegraph, 23 March: "Why have so many coronavirus patients died in Italy? The country's high death toll is due to an ageing population, overstretched health system and the way fatalities are reported".
Deutsche Welle, 25 March: "Japanese greeting etiquette — a bow instead of a handshake or a kiss on the cheek — has also played a part in slowing the outbreak, as has basic hygiene education taught from an early age. [] The country typically goes through 5.5 billion face masks every year — 43 per person."

Contrary to what you might expect, the Wiki list of average healthcare cost per person per country does not explain the above differences. Italy (#20) and Japan (#15) rank quite close. USA and Switzerland top both the OECD and WHO lists. However, USA is currently facing (very) many corona fatalities, according to WHO expectations (eg, FP, the Hill, NYTReutersVOX).

Trump's recent plan to "open up the country" by Easter (ie, 12 April) shows that an American life is not worth much, despite its (very) high average healthcare cost. A March 25 article in The Hill calls this "the biggest gamble of his presidency", at the expense of the American people.

"If you ask the American people to choose between public health and the economy, then it's no contest. No American is going to say, 'accelerate the economy at the cost of human life.' Because no American is going to say how much a life is worth." A quote from a March 24 press conference by Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York.

Old Man (1972) by Neil Young

Old man, take a look at my life 
I'm a lot like you


Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise.

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