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What are your body parts worth?

What are your body parts worth?

Aristotle once said: "The whole is more than the sum of its parts."

Although he wasn’t referring to body parts, the same philosophy could apply to body-part worth calculated by hospitals and insurance companies.

If you have ever been curious about the worth of your body parts, here’s an overview.

Your entire body is worth $45 million, according to a 2005 study by the Indiana University School of Medicine. Vital organs no longer hold the distinction of being the most valuable body parts; instead, your bone marrow for all 206 bones in your body is worth $23 million ($23,000 per 1,000 grams). DNA is worth $9.7 million at $1.3 million per gram. And a kidney is worth more than a heart, bringing in $91,000 compared to $57,000 for a new ticker.

What's it worth to you?

Based on an AIG group AD&D policy worth $250,000
Both hands or both feet
Sight in both eyes 
Hand & foot (simultaneously)


One hand & the sight in one eye  
One foot  & the sight in one eye
Speech  & hearing
Sight in one eye
Thumb and index finger
Source: AIG

On the body-parts market (yes, there is one), your body would fetch between $10,000 and $100,000, according to Anne Cheney, author of Body Brokers: Inside America’s Underground Trade in Human Remains. Your torso (used for seminars and demonstrations to train surgeons) could fetch $3,000 and either leg could garner anywhere from $700 to $1,000. More than just a song from The Wizard of Oz, your head without a brain would sell for $900. (Why someone would want a head without a brain is anyone’s guess.)

The Indiana University School of Medicine says that women's eggs have a higher markup than men’s sperm. A fertile woman could sell 32 egg cells over eight years for $224,000. For a man to earn the same amount, he would have to make 12 sperm donations a month for 20 years, the equivalent of a part-time job.

Celebrities such as Barbara Streisand, Keith Richards, Mariah Carey, America Ferrera and Jennifer Lopez have insured their noses, eyes, legs, hands and other physical attributes for millions of dollars, according to Lloyd’s of London, the foremost celebrity-parts insurer. But if the average Joe and Joanne lost parts they’d get a fraction of that from an accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D) policy — the kind of insurance that pays out in the event of an unfortunate mishap.

More parts: Higher limits

Based on a Principal Financial group policy worth $500,000
Loss of thumb or index finger
Source: Principal Financial Group

An average AD&D policy limit ranges from $20,000 to $500,000 for life and limbs. Most of us would like to believe we are worth at least a million dollars, and priceless to our families, but insurance companies have contracts with hard numbers. Although it may sound like weird science, these figures depend on a number of factors.

"The payout you would receive from dismemberment tends to depend on how critical that part is to your ability to function," says Jill Roman, a spokesperson for CIGNA. "Benefit payouts for plans vary based on severity of the injury and the type of insurance a person selects."

In addition, AD&D insurance can help close the gaps left by other insurance policies such as life, health, workers compensation and disability, since these have payout limits, too.

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