CogniFit's Science blog: How Much Is Life Worth?

How Much Is Life Worth?

The title of this article may raise some questions about its content. Is this about abortion? Is this about euthanasia? Is it about both, or neither of them? Perhaps it's something different and not so radical as to choose between life and death.

In different societies, people are valued differently. Some societies give an extreme value to experience, which makes the older people the center of wisdom, and the most respected group of all. In some others the value of protection for kids takes a major importance. In some others, these values have been lost over time. Each society is organized and based on different beliefs and values. 

But the advances in the modern medicine and as a consequence the amazing increase of the life expectancy in the developed nations has raised more questions of ethics and how a society is organized. The questions around how much a society should bear to support the older, and mainly to support the survival of those who become totally dependent (mainly due to mental health problems), goes beyond the economic cost – it is the whole sense of life in a society that is put at stake with those discussions. 

You see, as heard several times, the human brain is at the center of our existence. The brain health is as a consequence a guarantee of our independence as human beings. When something happens to our brain, being it by natural or artificial causes, part of our independence and ability to live is gone. And in the event that dementia issues occur (and in a large percentage of cases, they will), although the individual is alive, he or she is simply surviving, having lost the sense of what’s happening around. 

We are reaching the point in discussion. The increase in the life expectancy is supposed to be beneficial to the people and to the society. In most cases it may be the case, but an increasing number of people are suffering from mental health issues, having two (or I would say, three) very important consequences: 1) The individual becomes dependent; 2) The families need to spend a lot of resources on the care until the end; 3) The total aggregate cost of the care, now representing a few hundred billion dollars a year, will soon rise to a trillion dollars. 

The best way for a society to deal with these fundamental questions is not necessarily the most obvious one. Choosing life, or who gets to live, shouldn’t be based on the economic burden, but rather on civilizational values which are the base of the society. The solution is to fight back, to create the resources and means to control de development of mental health problems and therefore create the conditions to erase from the map the three consequences mentioned previously. This can be done either by a proactive engagement of the population in the brain training programs being developed every day, or by an active role of the governments to understand what’s at stake and take active policies to change the brain health habits of the population. Either way, a change is needed! Because life is an invaluable asset