Somebody once told me they fear that if we created rejuvenation therapies, they could end up being forced onto people who don’t want them, and in a way, we’d end up forcing people to live ‘forever’. Apparently, this would be a good reason not to develop rejuvenation therapies in the first place.
Wait. If rejuvenation therapies shouldn’t be invented because someone is afraid they’d be continuosly forced onto people who want to grow old and die, let me ask: How about the people who do not want to grow old and die and would yet be forced to because somebody else didn’t want rejuvenation therapies to be created? Dying despite the existence of rejuvenation therapies is certainly more easily attained than not dying despite the lack of rejuvenation therapies.
That being said, let’s delve deeper into the ramifications of the topic. I certainly know there have been cases of treatments being forced onto patients who didn’t want them, but they boiled down to two types: Cases of patients who were judged incapable of discernment, and patients affected by an incapacitating but not life-threatening disease who simply wanted to die to put an end to their own suffering.
I can easily imagine how people could end up being wrongfully forced to undergo treatment in situations like the above, and I agree that (at least in the latter case), the practice is despicable. However, the analogy with rejuvenation therapies is a false analogy. Rejuvenation therapies are intended as preventative treatments. It means they prevent you from getting sick. I don’t know anyone who would complain being ‘forced’ to avoid disease, but let’s assume there would be people like that. (As a matter of fact, I’m convinced there would be. After all, some people are against vaccines…)
I don’t think we’d ever get to a point where rejuvenation would be forced onto people. As a matter of fact, the right to refuse treatment is already recognised. Think of Jehova’s witnesses. Unless you’re one of them, you probably think it’s insane to refuse a blood transfusion when it would save your life, but as long as one’s sanity is not medically questioned, one cannot be forced to receive a transfusion—or at the very least, it is not a standard practice to do so.
Unfortunately, in some countries (*cough!* Italy *cough!*) there have been issues with letting the terminally ill or otherwise seriously disabled people perform assisted suicide, but public opinion has gradually become more aware of the problem and famous cases (like those of Eluana Englaro and Piergiorgio Welby) have ended with the will of the person in question respected. (Unfortunately, other cases did not end equally well.)
If people really prefer getting sick and die of age-related diseases, and decide to do so while capable of discernment, I don’t think they will be forced to do otherwise. However, if you want my honest, blunt opinion, if such people were frowned upon because of their choice, I would understand why. Allow me to explain.
Imagine we live in a post-rejuvenation society, i.e. where negligible senescence is a normal thing. Say there’s this guy who wants to age and eventually die ‘naturally’, and say he’ll be let to. Now just what is going to happen?
In a world where people aren’t normally old, there probably aren’t going to be services meant to help elderly people specifically, because elderly people are going to be just as healthy as young ones. Sure enough there will be hospitals and treatments for specific ailments, but retirement houses will be a thing of the past, and with good reason. Now, as the person of our example ages, he might be lucky and always be ‘healthy for his age’, and thus manage on his own until the day of his death, or he could (much more likely) lose the ability to look after himself at some point. Who is going to take care of him?
You may argue his family should. After all, we’re all supposed to look after our elderly, right? Or maybe, if the man doesn’t have any relative who could assist him, he could ask the State to pay for his medical expenses, or for an assistant, if he can’t afford these things on his own. Right? WRONG! This is a post-rejuvenation world. Everyone is biologically young, and refusing to take anti-ageing medications and then asking others to help you deal with the curse you brought on yourself isn’t a very smart thing to do. It wouldn’t be any different from another hypothetical situation, illustrated below.
Imagine you got amiotrophic lateral sclerosis (God forbid), and imagine we had a cure for it. (We don’t, unfortunately.) Imagine for some crazy reason you refused treatment, but still demanded paid assistance from the State to keep you going despite the illness. Would that be a sensible request? I think it wouldn’t, and the State would most likely deny it. Why should the State have to pay for your medical expenses for years to come—expenses that wouldn’t avoid your death, make your life any better, or prevent you from being a burden on others—when it could just pay a onetimer to cure you and make you a healthy, productive citizen again?
Likewise, in the case of rejuvenation, why should the State have to pay for your geriatric expenses for as long as your increasingly and irreparably miserable existence continues, when it could just pay for your rejuvenation once every thirty years or so, and keep you a healthy and productive citizen? I think it shouldn’t, and it wouldn’t. In a situation like this, you might want to become an old-style elderly only if you could afford it on your own. Sorry to break it to you, bub, but being sick is neither nice, nor economically convenient.
Objections to rejuvenation
Objections to living ‘forever’
All answers in short