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Advisability of Human Life Span Extension: Economic Considerations

Published

Author(s)

H Rodriguez, D A. Banks

Abstract

Enormous gains in biomedical technology have occurred since the 1960s. This has led to great advances in treatment methodology, as well as enhanced diagnostic ability for physicians. Surgeons now routinely perform procedures thought impossible 40 years ago, such as organ transplantation. However, technological advancement has contributed to the rising costs of health care services in the following ways: (a) engendered increased labor specialization within the medical profession and, as a result, highly specialized professionals are able to command high rates for their services; (b) made possible the treatment of maladies that only 20 years ago would have gone untreated; (c) medical technology (drugs, equipment and devices) is very expensive to purchase and maintain; and (d) the cost of medical research and development is passed along to consumers in the form of higher rates for services rendered. The high cost of treating the aged and the terminally ill is a result of this technological imperative; eventually, such life-sustaining technology forces society to make extremely difficult ethical decisions, in other words, the benefits to society of extending the human life span must be measured against the social cost incurred.1. Currently we are incapable of altering the aging process in any meaningful way; however, it is important for society to understand that once such technology is adopted it is likely to be cost inflationary, distributed based upon ability to pay, lead to further specialization within the medical profession, have economy-wide effects, and force us to make tough ethical choices. Any assertions to the contrary are misleading and not supported by fact. It is, however, equally misleading to ignore the ongoing shift in our knowledge of cell and molecular biology - as we attempt to predict the future of health care and social policy in developed countries. The assumptions on which we base our predictions must be clearly understood (1). Presently, there exists a reasonable degree of uncertainty in assuming that aging and age-related diseases will remain immutable in the coming decades. This will have profound implications for fiscal and social policy. It is evident, that any significant increases in the human life span will be accompanied by concomitant shifts in social spending on the aged. The magnitude or fiscal outcome of such increases cannot be accurately estimated; neither can their global distribution on the well being of populations. How social institutions accommodate impending changes in life-span extension and the age structure of the population will significantly affect the quality of life for everyone in the 21st century.
Citation
Oxidative Stress and Aging Journal

Keywords

baby boom, elderly

Citation

Rodriguez, H. and Banks, D. (2002), Advisability of Human Life Span Extension: Economic Considerations, Oxidative Stress and Aging Journal (Accessed April 24, 2024)
Created December 1, 2002, Updated February 17, 2017