Pricing Motherhood
Subject Opportunity cost
Topic Scarcity, Choice and Opportunity Cost
Key Words Liability, compensation, monetary value, award
News Story

Jane England was a woman who underwent in vitro fertilization treatment before she became pregnant with triplets. The babies were delivered by Caesarian section, but Mrs. England died from toxic shock caused by a bowel complication a week later, before she could leave the hospital.

The hospital admitted liability for her death, but forced Mr. England to go to court over the compensation. After a day and a half of evidence from Mr. England and a childcare expert, the parties settled. Mr. England was awarded $1,275,000 in compensation.

The court hearing considered the care that Mrs. England would have given the children and its monetary value. Mr. England was also asked to estimate when she would have returned to work, and to price out how much she spent on clothes, her car, gardening and decorating. He had to imagine how much time she would have spent helping the children with their homework as they grew up, and how much ironing she would have done.

In spite of the award, Mr. England said that no money could ever replace a mother.

(Updated June 15, 2002)


Explain how the concept of opportunity cost is relevant in this case.

2. Why was it necessary for Mr. England to estimate
a) when his wife would have returned to work?
b) how much she would have spent on clothes, her car, and other personal things?
c) how much time she would have spent caring for the children?
3. Why can money never replace a mother?
Source Helen Rumbelow, "Hospital made me price my wife's life, says triplet father," The Times, May 10, 2002.

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