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The International Association of Biomedical Gerontology, 10 th Congress. Social, Political, and Ethical Obstacles to Human Life Extension. Steven N. Austad University of Idaho USA. Longisin. Longisin. Longisin. Lo. Longisin. Longisin. Longisin. Economic Realities of Aging Research.

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economic realities of aging research
Economic Realities of Aging Research
  • FY 2004 NIH Budget:
    • 10.3% Heart, Lung, Blood
    • 17.1% Cancer
    • 15.6% Infectious Diseases
    • 3.6%Aging


(1) People are seriously ambivalent about medically extending life

why the ambivalence
Why The Ambivalence?
  • The Fairness Argument
  • The Malthusian Argument (Resource shortages)
on the other hand
On the Other Hand…
  • We Don’t:
    • Encourage smoking
    • Renounce antibiotics and vaccines
    • Destroy insulin supplies
    • Reward reckless driving
    • Refuse to treat heart attack victims
a tactic scientific mistake
A Tactic/Scientific Mistake:

Our Focus has Been on Length of Life

aging functional loss over time
Aging = Functional Loss Over Time

Retarding Senescence

Percent Function Remaining



(after Nathan Shock)

Aging =
  • Gradual and progressive loss of function over time, leading to:
    • Increasing incidence of death and disease
    • Decreased health and well-being*
mission statement us national institutes of health

Mission Statement:US National Institutes of Health

[Our]… mission is science in pursuit of fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to extend healthy life and reduce the burdens of illness and disability.

mission statement uk medical research council

Mission Statement:UK Medical Research Council

To encourage and support high-quality research with the aim of maintaining and improving human health

what is health

What is Health?

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Preamble to the Constitution of WHO, 1946

what is health ii

What is Health II?

Possessing the physical capability to do the activities in life that one wishes to do.

Improving Health (by Delaying Aging) Will Affect ManyChronic Conditions(Sources: National Center for Health Statistics)
ready set


Km run per day





People are seriously ambivalent about medically extending life;

Aging has no built-in constituency of energized, grieving survivors



People are seriously ambivalent about medically extending life;

Aging has no built-in constituency of devoted, grieving survivors

The naturalistic fallacy is common

social expectations were based on short expectations of life
Social Expectations Were Based on Short Expectations of Life
  • Richard II at 14 years old pacified Wat Tyler’s troops with a speech.
  • At 14, Alexander Hamilton set numerous rules for sea captains who traded with his employer’s firm.
  • Alexander the Great, a teenager at the time, led armies in battle.
  • A warrior’s young page might be made a knight at 12.

From Barzun, Dawn to Decadence* (2000),

* Published when Barzun was 93

rationale for the effort to slow human aging
Rationale for the Effort to Slow Human Aging
  • Goal is improvement and preservation of health, not (necessarily) the prevention of death
  • That goal is consistent with all disease-based biomedical research efforts
  • Continuing to increase longevity by disease-based advances alone could be a major catastrophe
    • 25 - 50% of people over 85 have disabling dementia
  • Slowing aging is a much more effective approach to preserving health than treating individual diseases