With technology in medicine advancing at the pace that it is, we
have to take a step back and ask ourselves how much is too much? It gets to
be too much when we are using modern medicine to prolong our lives keep on
living because in the long run, it will do more harm than good. The
consequences of living an extensively long life will come down to money,
pride, and vanity, and those are the last things we need more of.
The cycle of human evolution includes the
miracle of birth and a guaranteed death. When death will arrive is a question
that all of us have pondered at one point or another. Modern medicine has
allowed so many of us to live a lot longer. Without having to worry about
diseases such as the bubonic plague, polio, and small pox, children have a
better chance of surviving to adulthood and those adults are living well
beyond what was the natural average death age just a century ago. Whether a
longer life span is a good or bad thing is up to one’s opinion.
As a senior in high school, I had the chance to
work at an assisted-living facility as a nursing assistant for six months.
There I worked on the infamous second floor, where the sickest of the sick
needed constant nursing care. It was an amazing experience for I learned so
much from these people who had lived their lives while I was yet to begin
mine. One of the best advices I received was to "let your heart guide you;
you may make some mistakes along the way, but it’s a lot harder to live with
regret." That is always in my mind subconsciously as I make my everyday
After a while, I found it quite depressing to
come to the nursing home day in and day out. While some patients were cheery
and alert with all sorts of plans to occupy their time, most were barely
conscious. It was as if they were taking each breath simply to prepare them
for the next, with no awareness of their present surroundings.
This is what is going to happen if doctors keep
pushing to delay death. Many people will all end up in overpopulated nursing
homes waiting for old age to take the best of them.
The process of waiting for death to arrive
isn’t very fun either. You get to see when your body begins to slowly break
down. Things like getting up in the morning, walking, breathing, just
everyday little things will become harder to do. You worry about things like
bedsores and controlling your bladder. Then soon after, you are totally
dependent on others to clean you, feed you, dress you, and groom you. That
isn’t a very appealing way of life.
Those are only some of the physical aspects of
aging. The mental aspect of it is even tougher. You may feel depressed and
lonely because of a deceased loved one. You may also feel neglected by your
own family if they don’t come to visit very often. Being mentally "there"
will also be an issue. Something that a lot of elderly suffer from is
dementia and it all starts with forgetting a few things.
Whether there will even be people there to care
for the aging population will also be a problem, for there is a shortage of
nurses and assistants as it is.
Living longer can bring the burden of deciding
where your morals stand. One of my patients had kidney failure and was kept
alive by weekly dialysis. This went on for a very long time. She finally
decided set her affairs in order before stopping the dialysis, therefore
allowing her body to die. The nurse I worked under assured me that this
wasn’t suicide. It’s a tough call, having to decide whether to use modern
medicine to live on or to just end it all. Not until recently, it wasn’t even
a choice. People all died of natural causes.
Today, if you have the money, then you can find
ways for the doctors to keep you alive. That one patient could have lived on
for another day, week, or month if she wanted to, but it was her decision to
end it. Having the means is also something that is important in the field of
biotechnology. It will all come down to money. If you have it, then great,
you can afford to have doctors work on your body, to tweek with it like a
car, to keep it functioning correctly. If you don’t have it, then you’re out
of luck. That would mean a great deal of segregation, since right now the elite
group is composed of mostly white Americans.
What this entire living longer deal comes down
to is living forever. After all, with each generation, the average life
expectancy keeps getting higher and higher. Though it is impossible (at least
for now), immortality is an idea that has always enticed many people. It has
been written about again and again in books. Ponce de Leon found Florida because of his quest for the fountain of youth. The root of all this fascination
with immortality is pride and vanity. Pride is all about putting oneself
first and the ultimate way of putting oneself first is by having everlasting
It does seem incredible though, all life you
could ever want. "The trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely
those things that are worse for them [Harry Potter]." Imagine if there was
such a thing as living forever: there would hardly be any evolution since
everyone would be so set in their ways. Population would be a huge problem.
Where would everyone live? Every available space would be taken. It would
look like a Tokyo in every available area where even cemeteries are in
skyscrapers. There will probably be laws against reproducing because of
overpopulation. And reproduction is part of what makes us humans who we are.
Having enough resources that people will need would also be a problem. Who is
to pick and choose who gets what?
Immortality may never happen, but that won’t
stop scientists from trying. Scientists have said that they have pinpointed a
region on chromosome 4 that may hold the secret to a very, very long life. If
such genes are identified, then it is possible to develop gene therapies that
will help slow the rate of aging (msnbc.com/news/healthpkgs_front.asp). After
all, gene mutations have already doubled some fruit fly’s life span which can
lead to drugs that will help to prolong people’s lives.
The wave of new biological advances can mean
different things. One of those things includes entertaining the idea of
immortality. We are fixated with longevity for all the wrong reasons without
taking the consequences into consideration. Life may be longer, but shouldn’t
it be quality over quantity? Delaying the inevitable (death) will only make
the process of getting there harder to deal with. Is that really something
we’re ready to deal with?