CHAPTER 22: Human Life Extension: Opportunities, Challenges, and Implications for Public Health Policy
Published:18 Jan 2017
An analysis of possibilities of human life extension involves an extremely broad variety of questions regarding the opportunities, challenges and implications for the human society that such a prospect would raise. Still, despite the wide variety, the related questions may be categorized into several groups. The first group of questions may concern the feasibility of the accomplishment of life extension. Is it theoretically and technologically possible? What are our grounds for optimism? The second group concerns the desirability of the accomplishment of life extension for the individual and the society, provided it will some day become possible through scientific intervention. How then will life extension affect the perception of personhood? How will it affect the availability of resources for the population? The third group concerns normative action. Assuming that life extension is scientifically possible and socially desirable, and that its implications are either demonstrably positive or, in case of a negative forecast, they are amenable—what practical implications should these determinations have for public policy, in particular health policy and research policy, in a democratic society? Should we pursue the goal of life extension? If yes, then how? How can we make it an individual and social priority? Given the rapid population aging and the increasing incidence and burden of age-related diseases, on the pessimistic side, and the rapid development of medical technologies, on the optimistic side, these become vital questions of social responsibility.