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April 6, 2005

Postponement of Cancer Death and Life Insurance

JAMA. 2005;293(13):1592. doi:10.1001/jama.293.13.1592-b

To the Editor: The article by Dr Young and Ms Hade1 indirectly addresses the controversial subject of viatical settlements. If postponement of death can be attributed to important dates, then a rational investor will accordingly discount his purchase price of the viator’s life insurance policy.

Viatical settlements and newer hybrids are controversial for obvious reasons: an investor purchases a terminally ill patient’s life insurance policy at a discount of the face amount to make a profit. The viator receives the discounted purchase price from the investor prior to his or her death, to be used at the viator’s discretion. Upon the viator’s death, the investor receives the proceeds of the life insurance. On one hand, value has been created for both parties if the contract has been made freely. On the other hand, the investor eagerly awaits the viator’s death: a disturbing thought counter to many cultural norms.

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