Life Extension Research: Health, Illness, and Death
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Scientists, bioethicists, and policy makers are currently engaged in a contentious debate about the scientific prospects and morality of efforts to increase human longevity. Some demographers and geneticists suggest that there is little reason to think that it will be possible to significantly extend the human lifespan. Other biodemographers and geneticists argue that there might well be increases in both life expectancy and lifespan. Bioethicists and policy makers are currently addressing many of the ethical, social, and economic issues raised by life extension research. However, the emphasis on philosophical argument supporting or condemning efforts to increase human longevity means that much less attention is currently being given to the factors that might play a role in generating interest in efforts to increase human longevity. This analysis considers three factors that might play a role in heightening public interest in efforts to develop biomedical technologies capable of retarding or reversing aging processes. While discussions of life extension research can seem quite futuristic and impractical, there are some powerful existential factors that might well generate considerable public support for life extension strategies if effective biomedical interventions emerge. Rather than providing philosophical justifications supporting or condemning efforts to increase human longevity, this essay seeks to promote a better understanding of the factors generating contemporary interest in prolonging life and postponing death.
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