Journal Article

Aging Research: Priorities and Aggregation

Colin Farrelly

in Public Health Ethics

Volume 1, issue 3, pages 258-267
Published in print November 2008 | ISSN: 1754-9973
Published online September 2008 | e-ISSN: 1754-9981 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/phe/phn032
Aging Research: Priorities and Aggregation

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Should we invest more public funding in basic aging research that could lead to medical interventions that permit us to safely and effectively retard human aging? In this paper I make the case for answering in the affirmative. I examine, and critique, what I call the Fairness Objection to making aging research a greater priority than it currently is. The Fairness Objection presumes that support for aging research is limited to a simplistic utilitarian justification. That is, a mode of justification that is aggregative and permits imposing high costs on a few so that small benefits could be enjoyed by numerous recipients. I develop two arguments to refute the Fairness Objection. The Fairness Objection mischaracterizes the utilitarian argument for retarding human aging. It does so by invoking the fallacious conceptual distinction between “saving lives” and “extending lives”, as well as making a number of mistaken assumptions concerning the likely benefits of retarding human aging. Secondly, I argue that the case for tackling aging can be made on contractualist, in addition to utilitarian, grounds. Because the harms of senescence are "morally relevant" to the harms of disease, contractualists can permit aggregation within lives. And thus no one could reasonably reject, I contend, a principle that makes the aspiration to tackle human aging more of a priority than it currently is.

Journal Article.  7736 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Philosophy of Biology ; Bioethics and Medical Ethics ; Medical Ethics ; Public Health

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