Somebody once told me they fear that, if we created rejuvenation therapies, they might be forced on people who don’t want them, and in a way, we’d end up forcing people to live ‘forever’. Is this a good reason not to develop rejuvenation? No, of course not. I mean, imagine if we never came up with blood transfusions for fear that Jehovah’s witnesses might be forced to undergo them!
Besides, if rejuvenation therapies shouldn’t be invented because someone is afraid they’d be forced on 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 yet would 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.
Rejuvenation is a set of medical interventions, and as such, a patient has the right to refuse all of them, if they want to. Indeed, the right to refuse or halt medical intervention already exists (see this WHO paper of 1994, page 11, article 3.2, which states this right for European Citizens, for example), so, if one really doesn’t want to undergo rejuvenation treatments, that is in their right already.
You might say that the right to refuse treatment exists on paper, but it is not always honoured. I certainly know there have been cases of treatments being forced onto patients who didn’t want them, but they boil 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.
For example, 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 in famous cases (like Eluana Englaro‘s and Piergiorgio Welby‘s) the will of the patient was eventually respected. (Unfortunately, other cases did not end equally well.)
I can easily imagine how people could end up being wrongfully forced to undergo treatment in situations like the above, and I agree that in such cases the practice is despicable. However, the analogy with rejuvenation therapies is a false analogy. Rejuvenation therapies are preventative treatments. It means they prevent you from getting sick. We’re not talking about treatments to keep you alive in a miserable state for the sake of questionable morals; we’re talking about treatments that prevent you from being sick in the first place.
Quite frankly, I think compulsory rejuvenation would be a good thing, just like compulsory vaccines for very dangerous infections. In pretty much the same way infected people are a risk to others, age-related diseases are a huge emotional and economic burden on others. However, if people really prefer getting sick and dying of age-related diseases over being healthy indefinitely, and decide to do so while capable of discernment, I still think they should have the right to make this choice, and that they will indeed have it. Still, 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 lived in a post-ageing society, i.e. where ever-young people are a normal thing. Say there was a guy who wanted to age and eventually die ‘naturally’, and say he’d be let to do so. What would happen?
In a world where rejuvenation was a common thing, there probably wouldn’t be services meant to help elderly people specifically, because elderly people would be just as healthy as young ones. Sure enough, there would still be hospitals and treatments for specific ailments, but retirement houses would be a thing of the past, and with good reason. Now, as the person of our example aged, 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 should take care of him then?
The answer is no one. Taking care of the elderly of today, who are riddled with diseases they didn’t ask for, is one thing—a perfectly fair and reasonable one. They got sick because of circumstances outside of their control, and they deserve all the help we can provide. However, when our hypothetical patient refused rejuvenation, essentially he asked for his diseases and ailments. He knew he was going to lose his independence, health, ability to work, and so on; and yet, he refused the treatments that could prevent all of this from ever happening, and now he asks others to look after him? Especially if, as I argue is likely to happen, rejuvenation treatments are eventually going to be wholly or partly subsidised by the State, why should the State pay for your pension and 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? That’s like saying that you’re stuck on wheelchair, and even though I am willing to pay for a treatment that will get you right back on your feet, you refuse it and ask me to keep pushing the wheelchair. Well, sorry bub, but at that point, just like you have the right to refuse treatment, I have the right to refuse pushing the wheelchair. Being sick is one thing; wanting to be sick is another.
Objections to rejuvenation
Objections to living ‘forever’
All answers in short