Thursday, December 5, 2013

Should We Mess With Aging

Studies on aging are primarily concerned with controlling the process rather than coping with the process.  A recent article discussed the frequent features of the aging male - namely the development of the "pot belly," loss of muscle mass and a decrease in sexual desire.  These processes of growing older are mediated in large part by a fall in the level of testosterone.

Articles describing research in the field of aging refer to this change in testosterone level as a "decrease in the normal level of testosterone."  But it is not a decrease in the normal level of testosterone -  it, in fact, is a normal level of testosterone commensurate with the aging male.

Studies directed towards reversing the aging process by abnormally increasing a level of a hormone, be it testosterone, estrogen, or some other such agent, are concentrating on converting us from the normal aging process to an abnormal one.

Anti-aging research continues.  Why?  Are we truly interested in extending life expectancy to 150, or perhaps even further?   Is government expense for research to provide us with the proverbial "fountain of youth," - to control the aging process whereby we will live far longer, but at a great human and economic cost to society -  treasure well spent?

As Daniel Callahan (age 83), emeritus president of the Hastings Center, recently wrote in a NY Times Op-Ed article (Dec 1):  "We may properly hope that scientific advances help ensure……that young people manage to become old people.  We are not, however, obliged to help the old become indefinitely older.  Indeed, our duty may be just the reverse: to let death have its day."

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