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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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Social, Political, and Ethical Obstacles to Human Life Extension

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The International Association of Biomedical Gerontology, 10th 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

  • FY 2004 NIH Budget:

    • 10.3% Heart, Lung, Blood

    • 17.1% Cancer

    • 15.6% Infectious Diseases

    • 3.6%Aging


Why??

(1) People are seriously ambivalent about medically extending life


Why The Ambivalence?

  • The Fairness Argument

  • The Malthusian Argument (Resource shortages)


Life Expectancy at Age 65


Projected Federal Budget Outlays for Medicare & Socal Security


Who Will Pay for Retirement Benefits?


Retirement Age Has Been Moving in the Wrong Direction


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:

Our Focus has Been on Length of Life


Aging = Functional Loss Over Time

Age 17 Age 52


Aging = Functional Loss Over Time

Retarding Senescence

Percent Function Remaining

Age

Age

(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

[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

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

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)


CR

Km run per day

AL

Age

Ready…Set…


Why??

People are seriously ambivalent about medically extending life;

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


Why??

People are seriously ambivalent about medically extending life;

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

The naturalistic fallacy is common


The Way It Was(sources Lovejoy, et al.1977; Neel & Weiss, 1975; Gage, 1988)


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


Good Riddance to the Way It Was(source for recent data: USDHHS:SSA)


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


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