The simple questioning already implies an axiological conflict of really being able to measure or quantify the value of something valuable per se, and the answer would seem obvious: a lot, everything.

Or isn’t life perhaps the reason for being a doctor? Or were not all the efforts of the forgers of the history of medicine were to preserve it? Undoubtedly, romantically and philosophically, it has been so, but for hundreds of years and thousands of doctors we have been in charge of proving the opposite.

Alfred Stern affirms: “Only health and life are supra-historical values’”, that is, they are not subject to any relativism, and that life as an absolute value should never be questioned. How then does the question of the value of life appear? This way of facing our existence emerges as a great result of a society, a State, a political system, a religion and even a folklore, because we can see life as a product of chance thrown into the world from nothing, and having that same end as Sartre and Camus affirm; as well as the vision of Saint Augustine of Hippo, who sees God as the beginning and end of human life, with that phrase: “Feciste nos ad Te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in Te” (“You made me Lord to You and my heart will not rest until it rests in You’”).

Thus, from the philosophical point of view, life has shifted between a supravalue (religious) and a casual value (existentialism). And even more, the rich Mexican folklore participates when José Alfredo Jiménez -historical composer of Mexican ranchera music- affirms bluntly: “Life is worth nothing”, and without further ado unravels axiological conflicts such as that question of Socrates: ” Is life worth it because we want it or do we want it because it’s worth it?”, when he concludes dogmatically: “How can life be worth it if it always starts crying and thus ends crying?”, and concludes: “That is why in this world life it’s worth nothing.”

However, here we are in a maelstrom of conflicts, in which life hangs by a very fine thread, and in that thread we doctors had to create our modus vivendi; but it couldn’t be any other way, and in one way or another we enter the world of bartering: I give you health, my knowledge, you pay me, and according to supply and demand, good marketing techniques, a good study of marketing and the needs of a community, medical fees can rise like the stock market; therefore, life does have different values, or in other words, the same product is relabeled daily depending on where it is found.

For one day the value of life to be truly universal we must learn to respect it, but it is difficult, as Ortega y Gasset said, that man is made according to his circumstances, and these we cannot control, but I do not mean to war, misery or hunger, but to consumerism, to dehumanization, to that social escalation that the system imposes and that forces us to re-label life daily.

As doctors, life must always be worth the same, as the only value, the most sublime, and if the Code of Hammurabi already implicitly contained a marked respect for life and the bodily integrity of man, as well as the Pentateuch, and even the pre-Columbian culture itself, why should we now assess the value of life?

The key word is respect for life and reinforce the vocation of being a doctor; and the fact that our patients are women, and most of them at a time of great importance such as pregnancy, imposes a new attitude, a foolproof honesty and a loving pact that usually always give good results. It is not about acts of heroism or abnegation at all costs, but about living with certainty the wonderful opportunity to care for and preserve health and to be a participant in the miracle of new life.

Never more than: How much is life worth?



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