Is it ethically correct to prolong life?

IAS News 5 March 2013 | 0 Comments

This week’s blog looks into the ethics of longevity, and extending lifespan beyond the current ‘normal’. It’s quite a big question on most people’s minds, and is understandably one that cannot really be answered due to the many conflicting views. Concentrating efforts on curing diseases that affect many people in developing countries such as malaria, measles, diarrhea but have been stopped from killing many in the developed world is one argument. But presently this isn’t really being done, and efforts are more focused on looking into the diseases that affect those living in the areas where the researchers live.
Aubrey de Grey argues that we shouldn’t be concentrating on curing any disease, without actually finding a way to stop aging itself. By curing cancer for example it may give those suffering from it the chance to live a few more years, but without solving aging first the benefit is small.
Aging causes 90% of all human deaths within the developed countries – which suggests that treating aging is a big step in treating diseases of old age. Aging doesn’t kill straight away but it does stop us from being able to live life to the full, and causes us to no longer contribute to life as much as when we were young. Living forever isn’t his ultimate aim, but extending healthy and youthful life is – having control over the aging process is his desire.
The ethics are this, poor countries already have a lower life expectancy so would it be fair to allow these to live even longer, while those in the developing part of the world are still suffering and dying younger? Dying older would also mean that the number of people on the planet would increase much faster, which will also cause issues for those in the developing countries.
Answers to both these ethical quandaries are answered by de Grey in that the price for these treatments may be expensive now, but as with many other treatments they will drop over time. The ever increasing population question is resolved by having eliminated or delayed the menopause meaning women would have their children later in life. With economic development continuing the fertility rates in developing countries will drop as they have in the developed world. By living longer the chance to develop new technologies to help us control our impact on the earth may also be developed.
So should we be aiming to live longer? It is quite possible that by attacking the question of longevity it may lead onto resolving many of the other diseases that kill so many, so surely resolving the aging question is one of utmost importance in order to solve some of the ongoing problems.
To learn more about Aubrey de Grey and the SENS foundation go to his website here.

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