J.K. Davis

Many people worry that life-extension will be available only to the prosperous. Does it follow that society should inhibit life-extension research and development, or does it follow instead that society should subsidize life-extension for the have-nots? I will briefly explain why subsidizing life-extension for the have-nots may be easier than it looks.

However, it seems likely that governments will fail to subsidize life-extension for some have-nots. Is this a reason for society to decline to subsidize, and otherwise inhibit, life-extension research--'if we can't all have it, no one should have it'? This response is a kind of "collective suttee": just as widows could not outlive their husbands in traditional India, so potential Methuselahs would not outlive the have-nots.

Collective suttee is an unjustified response to a likely social failure to subsidize all have-nots. It might be justified against the stingy haves (who oppose subsidies) but it unjustly penalizes the generous haves (who are willing to subsidize). Anticipated social failure to subsidize means we must choose between a) promoting life-extension research that benefits both the generous (and deserving) haves and the stingy (and nondeserving) haves, and b) inhibiting research in order to deny life-extension to both groups. Given a choice between benefiting the undeserving in order to give the deserving their due, and denying the deserving in order to avoid benefiting the undeserving, is it more just to do the former. Therefore, anticipated failure to subsidize life-extension for have-nots does not justify inhibiting life-extension research.

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