How Much Are Your Body Parts Really Worth?

by Miranda Marquit

Ken Dolls
Image source: vikk007

When you stop to think about it, it becomes fairly obvious that your various body parts are of vital importance to your livelihood. Think about how you use your body each day as you earn an income. You might need your hands for typing, or you might use your legs as you run errands and attend meetings. If you are used to the use of your eyes in your work, the loss of sight can be devastating - and can affect your ability to perform your job. Many celebrities make their entire livings with their bodies. As a result, some celebrities insure their body parts for millions of dollars.

Your legs or hands may not be worth millions of dollars in terms of insurance coverage, but your body is still important to you. Because your body is so important to you, there are insurance policies designed to provide you with some financial protection should you become incapacitated in some way. This type of insurance is called accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D). Depending on the insurance policy you get, and how dependent you are on certain body parts to earn your living, your body parts might be insured for different amounts. Your insurance agent will go through the possibilities with you, and try to figure out how much each of your body parts is worth.

AD&D policies break down different payout amounts for accidental dismemberment. In 2009, an AIG AD&D policy worth $250,000 broke down what you could expect in payout for the following scenarios for someone losing the use of different body parts:

  • Sight in both eyes: $250,000
  • One and one foot (lost simultaneously): $250,000
  • Both hands or both feet: $250,000
  • Speech and hearing at once: $250,000
  • One hand or foot plus the sight in one eye: $250,000
  • Sight in one eye: $125,000
  • One hand, ear, or foot: $125,000
  • Thumb and index finger: $62,500

You can get higher coverage for each of your body parts if you have a policy that is worth more. It is important to make sure you understand the terms of coverage and payout. There might be specifics about the sort of injuries required to get 100% coverage. For the death portion, there is usually a time frame in which the person must die as a result of the injuries in order for survivors to receive a payout.

For those who are concerned about losing limbs and other abilities in an accident, it might be worth it to check into AD&D insurance. That way, if something happens to impair your ability to earn a living, the payout can help you meet some of your expenses.

On top of that, it is possible to sell different body parts on the market. One of the most common trades is in women's ova (eggs) and men's sperm. The Indiana University School of Medicine conducted a study in 2005 that suggested that a woman could make $224,000 in the course of eight years by selling 32 egg cells. Men can make money by donating sperm, but sperm doesn't sell for nearly as much. The Indiana University study suggests that men would have give sperm 12 times a month - for 20 years - to earn that same $224,000.

The Indiana University study suggests that it is possible that the human body could be worth as much as $45 million. If you consider the value of all your bone marrow ($23 million) and DNA ($1.3 million per gram), you can see how quickly the overall value of the human body quickly rises.

How Much Is Your Body Worth After You Die?

While it is a good idea to understand how much your body parts are worth to you during life, it is also interesting to find out how much the average body goes for on the body parts market after death. Your body parts are worth something to those who use them for teaching, research or for other purposes.

Annie Cheney wrote a book titled Body Brokers: Inside America's Underground Trade in Human Remains, which chronicles the cost of body parts on the market. CNBC did a report on what different body parts are worth after death:

  • Corneas: $6,000/pair
  • Head (intact): $6,000
  • Tendon: $1,000
  • Spine: $900
  • Knee: $650 (for one)
  • Brain: $600
  • Shoulder: $500
  • Heart: $500
  • Kidney: $300-$500
  • Hand + Forearm: $385

Body parts that are more difficult to prepare are worth more. An intact head is actually surprisingly hard to come by, since many surviving family members have a hard time parting with the head, which is often considered an essential part of someone's personality. Body parts that offer potential use for the living (such as corneas and tendons) are also worth quite a bit.

The body part of a live person is worth more than that same part for a dead person. You can get insurance coverage for your hands offering a payout many times greater than the price of your hand on the body parts market. This has a lot to do with the fact that for a live person, having the body part translates directly into being able to use that part to earn money. After death, many of the body parts, such as the spine, head, or hand, are used mainly for research or practice for surgeons.

While there is no way to truly put a dollar value on some of your different body parts, especially when you consider what they are worth to you as you make a living, the fact of the matter is that someone, somewhere can always put a dollar value on them.

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Mac September 24th, 2010
interesting list. I am a disabled vet and lost 50% use of my right shoulder. I get a $500 pension per month. $6000 for a year, and hope that I'll live at least 50 years since the pension started. Half the use of my right shoulder has a value of at least $300,000.

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