Life Extension Ethics - hypothetical for science fiction story

I’ve come up with this idea for a life extension treatment (extending life 30-40 years or so) involving a combination of telomere extension, stem cell therapy (not embryonic) and other medical/biological handwavium (science fiction writer lingo for “make it sound plausible”). This would be in a story set a few decades from now. My main character is a devout Catholic woman and I want to have her decide to take these treatments. So I want to make sure they would be morally licit.

In pondering the problem, I’ve come up with the following criteria that I’m extrapolating the Church might apply to this situation:

*]It would have to be morally licit in its means (such as no use of aborted fetal tissue, which I’ve already taken into consideration).
*]It would have to be able to be tested and implemented without endangering humans - this might be a grey area in my story as the first human trials may have resulted in cancer or other bad side effects, but the bugs will have been worked out by the time my character has to make her decision.
*]The societal implications of having people live longer will have had to be considered - the economy and so forth.
*]The technology must not be limited to only the wealthy - I’ve covered this base by having the providers require that a percentage the funds collected for the treatments will be donated to a worldwide “scholarship” pool.
*]I’m also considering the possibility that females such as my character who are approaching menopause might experience a resurgence of fertility and even their eggs would be more healthy. This would not pose a problem for my character - if I have her get pregnant it won’t be via IVF or anything.

n.b. - this is only a subplot of a novel whose main plot involves aliens arriving in the Solar System and interacting with humans. My idea for introducing this life extension subplot is so that my character can be around longer to witness more of the story’s events. Her descendants will also take turns as the focal point of the action, but I’d like to have her be there a bit longer than she would normally be.

Also, humans will be beginning to start colonizing space/other planets, so resources won’t be as much of an issue . . .

A few observations. Don’t forget the psychological impact. While some people today can live to 100 + 6 to 15 years, physical deterioration still occurs, and, if not, mental deterioration will have to be taken into account. While all the ethical and medical problems could be plausibly avoided, living to 130 might present other challenges.


Thanks, Ed - yes, I touch on several of the psychological aspects during my character’s stay at the life extension clinic. She is fit physically and mentally.

But I’m still hoping to get further feedback regarding some of the moral aspects - anyone? :cool:

You’re barking up the wrong tree here.

First, nobody is using aborted fetal tissue for anything. We’re using immortalized cell lines derived from aborted fetal tissue back in 1970s. We’re still going to have these lines 1000 years into the future even if any and all abortion were outlawed tomorrow.

Second, in your timeframe, it’s much more likely that we’ll be using artificially created life for production of stem cells etc. That renders your issue moot. Instead, it will raise another interesting point about the morality of creating artifical life. (Yes, it has been done already and Vatican is now at the stage of denying that this life was artificial).

Also, you should analyze how your proposed invention will personally effect the senior clergy. Experience shows that objective moral considerations are often ignored for short-term political and personal gains (cf. Marcial Maciel Degollado, Roberto Calvi, Enrico De Pedis).

Isn’t anybody going to address my main point?! :crying: Allow me to distill it to its essentials:

Would there be any moral objection by the Church to people taking a treatment to extend their life span if 1) the risks were minimal, 2) the means were not immoral, and 3) effort was made to extend the privilege to society as a whole and not just the wealthy elite?

Come on, armchair theologians, take a crack at it! :wink:

No :slight_smile:


:stuck_out_tongue: I hope you’re wrong, Ed! I may have to “Ask An Apologist!” :smiley:

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