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  • In An Era Of Anti-Aging Pills Will The Next Generation Of Humans Come With An Expiration Date?

    September 24, 2014: by Bill Sardi

    Set your sights on living 75 productive years and then lay down your baton, refuse any further medical interventions and await the day they are going to etch on you tombstone. That is what one of the advisors to Obamacare now suggests.

    His name is Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel who says he doesn’t force his opinion on others who want to live longer than that. He just says he thinks life is definitely on a downhill slope after 75 years and there isn’t much left to accomplish except to witness your own mental and physical decline.

    Dr. Emanuel’s position statement can be found at The Atlantic online. [The Atlantic Sept 17, 2014] Dr. Emanuel is 57, his parents are in their 80s.

    There are over a thousand comments from readers of Dr. Ezekiel’s column and I have read a few hundred of them. But few add anything significant to the discussion over whether the pursuit of living an extra 30 years is pointless or not.

    One thing that does stand out from all the comments Dr. Emanuel’s article initiated is that there appears to be a collective mind about longevity; that humanity needs to march in lock-step together or not proceed at all; that since any anti-aging technology is likely to require public-pooled money, the decision to approve and offer anti-aging pills needs to be voted on by the population as a whole or least convince the public’s representatives to vote for them.

    But what about an economical anti-aging pill that most people could afford? Why do government officials or insurance plans or even doctors for that matter need to bless an anti-aging pill before the public elects to use it?

    That mindset suggests government, the medical-industrial complex and other involved parties like life insurance companies are all genuinely interested in the public’s welfare at the expense of their own fortunes. After all, most doctoring is over with if a bona fide antiaging pill ever comes into common use.

    Presumption of open arms acceptance suggests that there is no population control agenda underway nor concern over how many jobs will be lost in healthcare if all of the age-related disease are quelled by an anti-aging pill. Nor do politicians even give a moment’s thought of who will pay all those extra pension checks and Medicare payments for super-longevinarians. Are we that naïve? I’m afraid so.

    I imagine if I convincingly told people that the research community, physicians groups as well as drug and life insurance companies have conspired over the past 40 years to conceal breakthroughs that would dramatically expand the human healthspan and lifespan there might be a stampede to obtain those breakthroughs and put them into practice. The public, feeling short-changed if they were intentionally deprived of the prize of superlongevity, might rush to adopt anti-aging technologies.

    But to brashly advertise an elixir against aging is likely to prompt people to back away and check with their doctor first, or at least some other authority. In many people’s minds any promoter of an anti-aging elixir is likely to be associated with health quackery. Few people can imagine that the reigning guardians of the status quo have for decades hidden the secrets of longevity in the scientific closet.

    It’s like what happened when the chieftains of the various tobacco companies were summoned to appear before Congress to testify under oath they had no knowledge their products caused lung cancer.   But when internal documents revealed otherwise, smokers were outraged and began throwing their cancer sticks out the window.

    Pictures of diseased lungs were not convincing enough to stop smoking, but that smokers were lied to was another matter altogether. An anti-smoking commercial that showed executives of tobacco companies swearing to tell the truth before Congress was more effective than any other effort to get smokers to stop sucking on burning tobacco leaves.

    Maybe if the public could see what is going on behind the curtains in aging research they could grasp how the biggest development to ever occur in human history is intentionally being kept beyond reach.   But that dark side of biology’s closet is not easily seen.

    About a decade ago the Rand Corporation think tank suggested an anti-aging pill be added to future Medicare budgets.   But that thought has also vanished.

    A giant misdirection

    We are living in the aftermath of a giant misdirection which is to allow the Baby Boomers to grow old and then detect and treat every age-related malady as they occur with disingenuous efforts toward prevention.

    We are paying a steep price for not moving ahead with genetic technology that was talked about in the 1970s.   According to a Medicare Trustee’s 2012 report, Medicare’s unfunded liability was $42.8 trillion. [The Wall Street Journal Nov 28, 2012]

    The life insurance industry was privately briefed about technology that could produce 250-year lifespans but had the power to throw it under the bus. [Record Society of Actuaries, Longevity & Genetic Engineering, Volume 5, No. 1, 1979] Implementation of such technology would have likely increased the healthspan of today’s senior Americans and this fiscal crisis would have been allayed if not averted altogether.

    Double-take on longevity

    Of course, there is an unconscious objection to superlongevity and it is found in the mirror. I often show a photo of a wrinkled old man blowing out the candles on his 100th birthday cake and the immediate reaction that picture produces is “Oh, I never want to live that long.”

    Moreover, modern medicine has certainly left an indelible impression that living more years means being confined to a wheelchair, drooling at the mouth and in need of diapering. This is not a very convincing mental image that living beyond the age 100 is a desirable goal.

    All too frequently we read of elderly couples, hampered by their many debilitations, medical bills and drug-induced mental depression, decide to go out in the garage, attach one end of a hose to the exhaust pipe of their car and push the other end through the car window, start the engine and let the carbon monoxide gas do the rest.

    But then there is the other end of the spectrum of holding onto life to its bitter end. An intensive care unit physician remarks that among ten patients in her unit, only two may live to see another day outside of their hospital bed.   She said: “I’m running a warehouse for the dying.” Families always hold out some hope that grandpa will miraculously recover.

    There is a line between prolongation of dying and not doing enough to extend the quality of life. [Perspectives In Biology & Medicine 2010]

    Some seniors claim they would not want to live to age 100 and contribute to the world’s overpopulation problem. But in developed countries the birth rate has declined and populations are shrinking in Western Europe, Italy, Japan and North America. Women control family size, not covert population control tactics. Two babies is population neutral.

    Health authorities at a recent United Nations General Assembly meeting claim a 40% reduction in deaths before the age of 70 can be achieved worldwide by tackling premature death. The most effective way to do that is to continue to drive tobacco use down. France has experienced a dramatic upswing in the number of centenarians as smoking rates have plummeted. [Science Daily Sept 19, 2014]

    Yet you get the idea that a lot of seniors would voluntarily line up to be “processed” if humans were allotted only so many years of life, much like people lined up for processing in the movie Soylent Green.

    But all the efforts of modern medicine are designed to prolong life and health. Who can put a limit on life’s length? Is modern man to be born with a predetermined expiration date?

    I overheard one old man’s approach to facing the future without all of the political and social wrangling:   “Why not take each day as it comes?” That may be the best approach.

    The market for youth perpetual youth products

    Economists suggest the market for anti-aging products and services is currently ~$162 billion. The problem with this figure that most of this money is being spent for cosmetic purposes, to look younger, not live longer and healthier.   Everything ranging from hair dyes, skin creams, contact lenses, lens implants, plastic surgery and Viagra encompass what appears to be an effort to feel and look young again. But what about stopping or even reversing the aging process itself?

    Anti-aging researchers say the field of biological enhancement is now emerging based upon breakthroughs in genetics and that “biogerontologists” now distinguish themselves from the many false promises made by hucksters of the past. “Aging research is a discipline just now emerging from a reputation for charlatanry,” says one report. [EMBO Reports Nov 6, 2005]

    Researchers now say they are breaking the boundaries of “forbidden knowledge”, which refers to the idea that some arenas of scientific inquiry are off limits because it may undermine social norms or offend religious or moral authorities. [Journal Aging Studies Dec 1 2008] Strange indeed given that the Biblical patriarchs lived hundreds of years.

    The claim that “no currently marketed intervention – none – has yet been proved to slow, stop, or reverse aging” made by 51 gerontological scientists in 2002 is no longer true. It is only a matter of time before the experiments that are being shown to reverse aging and prolong the lifespan in the animal lab get translated into the human practice. [Journal Aging Studies Dec 1 2008]

    Equal access to longevity

    It is unlikely society as a whole will adopt anti-aging strategies en masse. Some bioethicists anticipate that life extension will be too expensive to provide to everyone. [Annals New York Academy Science June 2004]

    If there is a free market, those who choose to adopt successful anti-aging practices will lead the way. There will not be equal access and provision of life extending technologies if for no other reason than many simply choose not to pursue that goal.

    A number of bioethicists argue for equality in anti-aging. Their thinking is, if everyone doesn’t have an equal chance at obtain anti-aging medicine then it is immoral for society to proceed. I not only reject that kind of thinking but I double dismiss it because some anti-aging strategies cost nothing or are very economical (blood-letting, sunshine vitamin D, calorie-restricted diets or molecular mimics of the same) and only require education. There will be equal access or near-equal access to some anti-aging strategies.

    Equal delivery of longevity

    However you don’t need an anti-aging pill to create a haves versus the have-nots argument. Gaps in lifespan between haves and have-nots already exist today.

    In a landmark article entitled “Income Gap, Meet The Longevity Gap” published in The New York Times, there is a 20-year difference in expected years of life between residents living in McDowell Country, West Virginia and Fairfax County, Virginia just a few hundred miles down the road. [The New York Times March 15, 2014]

    Bioethicist Alex Mauron argues that not only will the haves obtain earlier access to life-prolonging technology but this will give them more of what they already have more of. Mauron says radical life extension “may well create more resentment and strife in the future.” [EMBO Reports July 2005] However, it could also create a model for others to follow.

    In the Judeo-Christian context to intervene massively in the inner workings of humans is said by some bioethicists to exert God-like powers. [Annals New York Academy Science June 2004]

    Donald Bruce, another bioethicist, says “whatever elixir would provide extended high-quality life – diets, pharmaceuticals or genetic interventions – it seems unlikely that this would be a provision of any national health service. Will we be guaranteed we will live forever young or suffer in everlasting old age?” he asks. There are certainly no money-back guarantees if a so-called longevity pill fails to deliver on its promise.

    I can hear some skeptics now. Upon notification that a long-time user of an anti-aging pill was crushed to death when run over by a cement truck, skeptics may sneer at all the money that longevity seeker lost buying some proposed anti-aging pill never to benefit from it.

    One observation. Those bioethicists dispatched by government, like Dr. Emanuel Ezekiel under the Obama regime and Dr. Leon Kass under the Bush II era, appear to be appealing to the public to die on time so government won’t get caught short in delivering pension checks and paying for healthcare. Bioethicists writing from a purely moral/social viewpoint appeal to the unfair access and delivery of any anti-aging technology.

    It is ironic in this “aging is optional” era that a healthcare planner like Dr. Ezekiel would propose voluntary “expiration dates” for humans. One wonders how he would accept an anti-aging pill. The first human study of an anti-aging pill that tabulates an accepted measure of mortality (red blood cell width) is underway with results due to be reported in late 2014. What then? –©2014 Bill Sardi,

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