Know the Opposition

Daniel Callahan is the deathist's deathist, working away to equate bioethics with suppression of healthy life extension technology and glorification of death and suffering. He and others like him are the intellectual opposition to advocates for longevity research. Here, Commonweal profiles Callahan: "The seventy-three-year-old Callahan was emphatic: It is a mistake, he told the council, to think that we have an obligation to pursue stem-cell work-or medical research generally, for that matter. Medical progress is certainly an important social good, but it must be weighed against competing social goods, such as education or decent housing. What's more, Callahan insisted, many of the diseases that stem-cell research might address, like cancer and heart disease, are illnesses of the old, and we must ask whether extending the human life span by a few more years through new treatments for these diseases is worth the cost. ... Callahan has sought to explore the folly of what he calls the 'gospel of medical progress'-namely, the idea that medicine brings the good news of liberation from death and dying." We should feel no shame in treading underfoot calls for the death of billions as we move towards the technologies that enable longer, healthier lives for all who so choose.


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