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17 July 2004

Is it too sick for investors to gamble on the terminally ill? Don't bet on it

From my non-blogging friend Joani, I received this article from The Observer about the recent trend in individual investors buying the life insurance policies of people diagnosed with terminal illnesses. I remember a decade or so ago when this was a big thing for AIDS patients to sell their life insurance to charities, mainly in order to free up cash to make the remainder of their lives more comfortable. But the sale to individual investors hoping to make, if you'll excuse the expression, a killing, has a definite moral downside, as evidenced from this excerpt:
". . .Peter Hewitt, an independent financial adviser with Richmond Financial Management[:]
" . . .'We pulled out of this market altogether because we found the sellers were not dying when they were supposed to, and we were having to face huge numbers of disgruntled buyers,' he admitted.
"'When the sellers suddenly have lots of money to spend on achieving their life dreams, it gives them an extra spurt of life and they don't die,' he said.
"'It became quite embarrassing: we would have buyers ringing up, asking us what sort of condition the sellers were in, and we would have to admit they were on some exotic holiday, jumping out of aeroplanes.
"'It didn't go down too well when they were supposed to have died months earlier.' "

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