The Value of Life

The Value of Life

Yesterday morning at about 9 a.m. Dominic, Lisa Tipton’s new Black Lab mix canine companion, decided to seek some new adventure and walked out onto SR 60 just in time to be struck and killed by a local man in his pickup truck. The driver, Gerald Travis, swerved and did his best to avoid hitting Dominic, but I guess it was Dominic’s time, and death was swift and probably painless. Gerald parked his truck, quickly checked Dominic for vital signs, and began walking up the driveway to the Tipton Farm to locate Dominic’s owner.

Lisa was obviously saddened by the news, and when Gerald offered to bring Dominic’s remains up to to Lisa’s barn, she gratefully accepted. Life is fragile; it comes and goes, sometimes, right after it has just begun. Dominic was just turning six months of age when he met his sudden end.

If Dominic had been human, police personnel would still be measuring skid marks, and lawyers would be scurrying about attempting to assign blame to the driver, the civil engineers responsible for the road design, or the DOT department responsible for road signage. In short, someone must be made to pay.

But Dominic wasn’t human, and with the kind assistance of Hank Beavers and Micah Davenport, Dominic was lovingly laid to rest without flurry or fanfare in a shady area of Lisa’s apple orchard just behind her shed.

Somehow in the many centuries that have passed since you folks stopped walking on all fours, thank God you are still unable to place some kind of a monetary value on a human life. Depending on the culture and surrounding circumstances, compensation for the loss of a human life might be as low as $25,000 or as high as $15 million. In our capitalistic society, the compensation figure would probably be predicated on “loss of income” over the duration of the victim’s life lost. Our present day society seems to thrive on litigation, and human life, human injury, disability, or partial disability seem to head up the list of things to litigate over.

Everything of any importance in this world seems to be measured by monetary value. About the only place we don’t see the old dollar sign is in the simple, understated obituary. Most obituaries tend to deify the subject, but our opinions seem to soften when even the worst curmudgeons cash out.

Micah was discussing the many discrepancies regarding the value of human life, and I was amazed at how your cuamazed assesses values on the human life. Micah is a very logical person, and he traditionally uses our public library to research many of the foremost questions on his mind. I heard Micah telling Isabel that the death benefit for the families of fallen firefighters and policemen starts at about $10,000, and tops out at around $125,000 in some of our wealthier cities. As Micah put it; “these are the very people who, as dedicated first responders, are charged with saving and preserving OUR lives during times of calamity or disaster.” Conversely, a hospital patient finding that a gauze pad, retractor, or surgical clamp still remains in the wound site after a surgery can sue for – and win – millions, whether he or she suffers any additional injury or not. Isabel was quick to remind Micah that today’s established value of human life is highly dependent upon the depth of the defendant’s pockets. Ah, the deep pockets syndrome!

Because Micah believes steadfastly that our Maker initially breathed life into each and every one of us, every life should be considered equal and just as precious as that of another, and that class demographics or earning levels shouldn’t be factored into any compensation equation. I guess that our legal community would take a rather dim view of Micah and his path to ‘just compensation.’

Isabel recently witnessed an interesting anomaly during a recent visit downtown. It seems that one of old Mrs. Blankenship’s new kittens got out of the house and climbed 60 feet high in an oak tree near her home, and wouldn’t come down. Nobody got very excited over the incident until the second day passed with the furry little fellow still mewling pitifully from his precarious perch at the top of the tree. Isabel happened to be on the scene as a ladder truck was dispatched, with five firemen aboard, to rescue the hapless kitten. Twenty-five minutes later, “Buddy” had been brought to safety, the firemen had been rewarded with a plate of warm brownies, and ‘all was well’ in the city of Blue Ridge that day. Cost to the county for the rescue — including liability? Probably around $500. During that same 25 minute period, fifteen assorted stray dogs and cats were euthanized at the county animal control facility on the other side of town. Kind of gives you a new perspective on the value of life, doesn’t it?

Make no mistake, we Americans are among the kindest and softest-hearted people in the world. The fact that that the ‘underdog’ is alive and well in your heheart and minds certainly gives a guy like me hope. You folks work hard at social justice and sometimes you even get it right; but the day that we are finally able to put a price on life itself might turn out to be a sad one, indeed.