Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What price a human life?

Can I present you all with a problem, actually a small series of questions.

First the background -

A couple set off in a 9m yacht, well founded, well fitted, for Cook Islands. Some 5 days out of harbour they strike extremely heavy weather. It is not unusual for this time of year, but was not forecast at all on the long range weather until two days before it crossed NZ, three days before it got to where the yacht was. During the five or six days of continuous 40knot plus gales and very heavy seas (up to 14m when the first rescue was attempted) one of them is badly hurt, the other unable to handle the yacht alone. They send out a distress signal and are subsequently rescued.

The latest news is that the rescue - spread over some three days - has cost over $1 million.

That cost is paid by the taxpayer of NZ. It would be irrespective of the nationality of the sailors. In this instance they are NZers.

Right, questions -

Do you believe that every nation should have the responsibility of rescuing those in distress at sea? At the moment that universal responsibility comes from the International Law of the Sea.

Do you believe that that responsibility should come with the right to recover that cost from the people who have been rescued?

At what point should it be decided that rescue is "not economic"? Remember here that some years back the Australians rescued a solo yachtsman from deep southern waters in an exercise involving at least three flights (long range) by Orion aircraft to locate him, drop supplies, a four day emergency dash by a RAN frigate, three flights from the helicopter to effect the rescue and a five day return voyage, plus intensive medical treatment.

Would you consider such a cost a "fair payment" to be made from the taxes that you pay?


Brian said...

Let me ask you, what's more important, a human life or a million dollars and a couple flights?

The probligo said...

Brian, there are people with whom I converse from time to time on the 'Net who believe in "zero" taxes.

I have a small delight in trying to find the limits of their "zero".

Looks like the game is too boring (or too challenging?) for them.

Anyhoo - there is no doubt in my mind. But I note that you have not expressed an opinion either?

Immoral Majority said...

I can say, without hesitation, that I would be happy for my tax dollars to go to such noble causes. Of course, my opinion maybe doesn't deserve as much credibility since I have never made more than 7,000 US dollars in a year, and so I have never had to pay taxes.

It seems to me that the majority of people, even here in the United States, would agree. Only the most heartless would not support funding to rescue people in need. And yet, here in my home state of Illinois, our governor has proposed a plan to provide health insurance for every single child in the state, and it has faced fierce opposition. I personally don't see how the two issues are any different, but I guess that I just don't understand people very well.

hoody said...

a) can you put a dollar figure on a human life?

b)If so, are some lives worth more than others?

c)Who determines either a) or b)?

d)What qualifies that person in c)?

We cannot afford to not save lives if we have the opportunity to do so.

Now, do we want to bill those would-be Cook Island tourists? Certainly. But the simple fact is that we have a moral obligation to save those that we can. To reduce it to a financial calculus is to trudge down the same road Germany did in the 1930s.