Leon Kass, advocate for suffering, death and mysticism, a good example of the worst of modern bioethics, is still turning out material in opposition to healthy life extension, it seems. Fortunately, he's no longer heading up the President's Council on Bioethics - although what's left is just as bad, frankly. There Kass is, however, plugging away at the idea that it's a wonderful thing to suffer, decay and die in pain. From the article:
First, medical progress often leads to greater debility in later years even as - and precisely because - it cures deadly diseases at earlier ages. This is the paradox of modern aging: we are vigorous longer and we are incapacitated longer. To be sure, no one wants to turn back the clock to a time when mothers and children died regularly in childbirth, when infectious diseases decimated helpless communities, when heart disease was largely undiagnosed and untreated, and when a diagnosis of cancer meant swift and certain death. But severing medicine's sweetest fruits from its sourest consequences may prove impossible.
Note the sneaking in of a form of the Tithonus error here - it's certainly not true that medical progress leads to greater debility in later life for you and I. In fact, studies show quite the opposite effect.
Second, to see medical progress as a "cost saver" is simplistic at best. Medical care is more expensive than ever precisely because we can do so much more to diagnose and treat disease, and Medicare and Medicaid are costlier because more people are living longer. Even if curing today's diseases becomes less expensive over time, no one knows the cost of dealing with the diseases that will replace them. Only if people live free of illness to the very end and then die suddenly will medical progress really result in cheaper medicine. Otherwise, it will continue to purchase greater longevity and better health at an increased overall expense.
This is nonsense, conflated with socialist nonsense - a classic example of the way in which centralized systems turn opportunities into problems. Being alive has a cost, dependent on circumstance, and technological progress acts to bring that cost down. Being alive means that you can work to create wealth, and thus pay your way and save for the future. For those of us for whom being alive holds a certain attraction, it's all a matter of working towards technological progress, thus bringing the costs of remaining alive down to a manageable level. That living longer costs more should raise no eyebrows. In a free market for healthcare, this would be a state of dynamic growth and optimism - all those people living longer, earning more, spending more, and taking responsibility for their own finances and purchases ... no different than any other aspect of life. For some reason, pundits who romanticise the horrors of aging and the destructive effects of big, centralized government programs just can't see it that way.
None of this implies ingratitude for the blessings of medical progress - including current research aimed at curing age-related diseases like Alzheimer's. But in fueling our love of youthfulness and limitless life, and our hatred of senescence and decline, the campaign for healthy aging also subtly encourages us to devalue the need to give care and comfort to those we cannot cure.
Here we have the projection of unsavory values from a pundit upon the world. From where I stand, healthy life extension advocates are working towards the defeat of age-related degeneration as much for others as themselves. Just take a look at the dedications by MPrize donors, or the In Memoriam donations. The ultimate expression of solidarity for those who will die before real anti-aging medicines arrive is the support given by the healthy life extension community to cryonics organizations.
Kass has a deep and abiding romance with death and aging, a state of mind that apparently blinds him to the very real suffering and very real tragedy of 100,000 lives lost to aging every day. Every day! Why else would he advocate government restrictions on research that could help people lead longer, healthier lives? Kass reaches for whatever arguments he can muster to support his romance; sense and truth fall beside the way. Once you point out the flaws in the three quoted paragraphs above, the entire essay falls apart.