Is There a Natural Life Cycle

In reply, the critics of anti-aging medicine ask us to imagine our reactions to a hypothetical biomedical intervention that would interrupt the development of a child and extend childhood by delaying puberty (Hayflick). What is worrisome about that is not simply the psychological harm such a developmental distortion might produce. Nor is it just a matter of violating the child's rights to self-determination— those rights are not yet in full flower and it is their parents' role to protect, and to some extent define, the child's best interests. If interrupted, the child's bodily development is no longer progressing on its own schedule, nor is it being driven by the complex, automatic interplay of genes and their reactions to the environment. Such a disruption of the child's "developmental autonomy" alienates his or her life story from the temporal narrative that characterizes the human species.

Postponing the normal biological changes of aging, the critics argue, constitutes a similar disruption. Whether or not the biological changes of aging are beneficial or harmful, they are meaningful: They and their natural timing constitute part of the normal life cycle for human beings, and thus part of what it means to be human (Kass, 2001). Intentionally distorting that cycle alienates the elderly from the definitive human life story, and dehumanizes them in the process. In this view, adults should be taught to seek the meaning of the later stages of human development, and biomedical research should focus on making the experience of that part of life as healthy and pleasant as possible, but not interfere in its essential rhythm (Callahan, 2000).

Of course, arguing that the traditional human life cycle is normative for human beings requires a good bit of philosophical work if it is not be reduced to a statement of religious faith or accused of making a virtue of necessity (Overall). Just because human beings have always lived their lives within a traditional time frame is not necessarily a reason to continue doing so. In fact, the social and technological dimensions of the "typical human life story" have been rewritten continuously during human history, without diminishing the moral status of those people whose lives are made possible by that evolution (Gruman). Given this history of pushing back the natural limits of human life through science and technology, the burden of proof, the advocates argue, is on the critics to complete their philosophical project convincingly. Until then, theirs is one ideology among many, which autonomous adults (and researchers) in a free society should have the right to assess, adopt, or reject as they will.

Anti Aging Made Easy

Anti Aging Made Easy

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