Morality of extending life

As we learn more about health and medicine we are able to live longer lives. Eventually the technology may advance to the point where life can be extended indefinitely. If we had this technology, what moral issues should be considered?

At first such a procedure would probably only be available to the wealthy. Would it be fair to allow billionaire immortal billionaire dynasties?

Morality, schmorality.

Where are my immortality pills, dag nab it?!

Call me cynical, but I imagine that the people likely to write the laws regulating the usage of any immortality drugs are the ones most likely to benefit from them.

Living past a normal life span is not a right. If one wishes to do it and can afford it and it’s technologically possible, more power to them. But the existence of the technology does not confer the right of immortality to everyone.

Those interested in this thread might want to check out this one as well:

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=215852&highlight=forever

over population?
we’re supposed to die at our 40s if i remember correctly.

Define normal, in the context of immortality drugs.

Should there be limits? What if a US Supreme Court Justice, who holds the office for life, decided he wanted to not retire and live for another 200 years? Does one retain the right to a life-long pension? If you start allowing people to commit suicide, at what age can one have that option?

Juan2003 obviously some these things would have to be changed.

But the answers are not as cryptic as you propose.

What if a US Supreme Court justice did not want to retire? It wouldn’t matter. We would simply change the law so that a US supreme justice can only serve a certian amount of years before having to step down.

Same goes for pension: We would have to agree to new standards that are beneficial for the society and the new longetivity of it’s citizens.

The change would be big, and probably riddled with problems at the beginning, but eventualy rules, laws, etc would be changed to accomodate any new problems/circumstances that arise.

And I do think you hit on an important quesiton on your OP: The rich are the most likely to get their hands on this type of treatment. And what happens them? Who’s gonna stop them from making sure none of the rest of us gets to live forever?

I would imagine that a law would be needed that says one can only have children if one agrees to die at a certain age in order to prevent overpopulation. As far as immortaility only being available to the rich, well I think a lot of the “have nots” would resent the hell out of this and start gunning for them either to get their hands on enough cash to afford the procedure or just kill them off so they wont live forever and get godlike influence over all of society. This sort of reminds one of the story of Dracula doesn’t it? Some one incredibly old and powerful but hunted and hated.

Sock Munkey, I don’t know what country you live in where the rich and powerful don’t control the politicians and run the government, but here in the United States, no law will keep billionaires from having anything they want. Bill Gates could simply go visit Europe or wherever the procedure is legal for his longevity treaments, come back and live thousands of years, producing new children with each new 20-year-old trophy wife.

As my moniker suggests, I am a self-proclaimed immortality enthusiast. I feel that we have an ethical obligation to preserve human life, to extend it as far as possible, and to continually redefine just what “as far as possible” means.

The advent of “immortality” would bring new problems. Just remember that we’ll have to adjust our way of thinking.

We’d have to stop appointing people “for life” to positions like the supreme court.

Pension? What for? If you can remain youthful indefinitely, you can’t justify retiring at taxpayer expense; you keep working as long as you are able to or until you manage to become “independently wealthy”.

Any corporation that develops said drugs would have a vested interest in making them cheap. A thousand customers that pay two million dollars each isn’t nearly as profitable as a billion customers that pay seven hundred dollars each.

Overpopulation may be a problem, but I’ll cross my fingers and hope that a few centuries from now we’ll have arcologies and viable interstellar space travel (Even if it’s not FTL, a 400-year journey to another solar system isn’t out of the question when you live for tens of thousands of years).

It goes on an on. We’re so in the habit of thinking as mortals. For example, immortal Bill Gates wouldn’t necessarily have a series of 20-year-old trophy wives. He could have the one trophy wife who never ages past 20.

Disagree with me if you want, but please don’t bring your mortal sensibilities into this discussion.

Immortality is a luxury, like a yacht or mansion or a private jet. Just because only a few can afford it doesn’t mean no one should be allowed to have it.

Poor people already live shorter lives… especially in poorer places like Africa. They seem too busy surviving to complain about it thou.

I think longevity is fine... but immortality is dangerous. We cling to our old ideas and values too strongly to live forever... that would mean the end of humanity in terms of innovation and creativity.  

Someone born in 1800 just 200 years old would still be a firm beleiver possibly in slavery and in the Monarchy. Someone 510 years old would think Europe, Africa and Asia were the only continents. Death means renewal... new generations to bring new ideas and advancement.

 Living forever... and living well forever are too distinct things.

Would prisoners serving a life sentence be allowed to extend their life indefinitely?

Interesting point Mr2001. If we can deny eternal life to prisoners, is that any different from a death sentence?

Are you implying that the contents of people’s minds are somehow frozen, and after a certain age the person no longer learns or evolves? Does everyone born before 1969 believe that mankind has not stepped foot on the moon? I hardly think that a 510-year-old person (with all his faculties) wouldn’t be aware of the fact that there are more than three continents. We’re talking about people being continuously alive and conscious, not bringing them back from a centuries-long coma.

But back to the OP:

The bottom line is this: If I have a magic immortality pill, and I obtained it legally, what right does anyone have, to stop me from taking it?

Absolutely. Keep in mind that most of the cheap technologies we take for granted nowadays (PCs, VCRs, even Cars), got their start by being very expensive items olny the rich could afford. On that basis alone, let’s hear it for the wealthy!
Besides, if the poor or working class really wanted to be immortal or long lived, they could just get rich anyway. It’s not like there are any laws keeping people poor today.

Why would they want to? Jail, by design, sucks.

I dare you to remain immortal after being married to the same woman forever, lol.

On the subject of immortality, there is a theory that as humans we have emotional barrier as well as a physical one.

I’m basing this on the vampires from the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. Eventually we will become unable to adapt to the changes in society and the world around us. Those who are dear to us die, our favourite celebrities, general thinking changes. As humans we naturally resist change. Maybe at a young ager we can adapt, but as we spend more and more time doing things a certain way we inevitably become set in our ways. Change becomes more and more difficult. This is illustrated by the way that seniors generally resist change, and in some cases it even stresses them out to see so much of what they hold dear torn down and replaced by something new.

You might say well what if everyone could affford it. I don’t know if that solves the problem. I think our rate of progress will slow as a society. Eventually we may never progress as we are ‘comfortable’ as is.

Would seem to me also that one would need to shed religion to accept immortality. Many people won’t trade this off. One issue is bringing you to God and your family - for someone to accept immortality they would need to accept they will never see these people again (since we are dying now someone will need to make that sacrifice - you can’t make the argument that everyone can live forever - at any point in time there wil lbe those with dead parents). Also, our expectations of death allow us to live our lives… without knowing death and the justice that it brings (i.e. those who have wronged you and you expect to see burn in hell for it) we have a completely different way of looking at things.

In the above I am referring to the point in time where immortality becomes available - at that point someone is going to have to abandon all hope of seeing their deceased loved ones.

Also I didn’t cite the exact book I was referring to in the Vampire Chronicles - it was The Vampire Lestat, though to understand that book (it is the second of the chronicles) you need to have read Interview with a Vampire. If you have read the books you know exactly where I am referring to. If not - I can’t begin to explain the concepts in this series - some of the finest literature I have ever read.