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french at RUST.ZSO.DEC.COM french at RUST.ZSO.DEC.COM
Fri May 29 17:03:02 EST 1992


In reply to article <9205290120.AA10093 at inet-gw-1.pa.dec.com> by
GERALD M. PHILLIPS

> I have three vessel inoperable heart disease.  I was given a year to live
> in 1984.  I have had no operations.  I do take about 9 different drugs,
> half to counteract the side effects of the other half.  I am functional
> and since my death sentence, I have published seven books and 25 articles
> ...


Clearly, your life has been very productive and, hopefully, you
will continue to be so for many years to come.  However, you
are the exception to the rule.   For each extraordinary person,
like you, there are many non-productive elderly people who require
a great deal of expensive medical care.

In the not too distant future, we will face the prospect of being able
to keep such elderly people alive and kickiing for as long as we are
willing to pay for the health care.  Yet the cost of health care is 
now at the point  where any large increase will signifigantly lower the 
quality of life for the general public.  

The problem runs deeper than limiting the amount of public funds
spent on health care.  For example, if the rich have unlimited
access to any medical technology they are willing to pay for, then
a great deal of resources will be diverted away from areas such
as education and so on.  Furthermore, we are all subject to the 
survival instinct and few of us are capable of acting in the best
public interest when it involves a matter of life and death.

The best solution that I can envision is to limit public funds spent 
on health care to a fixed percentage of GNP and to heavily tax 
health care procedures that add little value to the quality of life
for the general public.


> I urge those of you who are looking to science for the fountain of 
> youth to consider the despair of uselessness and make sure you have 
> room for the old people you are saving.  

The foutain of youth, that I hope for, would greatly extend the robust
period of our lives and shorten the length of time that we are
enfeebled.  If such technology were available, one would have to endure 
the  feelings of despair and uselessness that traditionally accompany
old age for a relatively short period of time.

I believe that the path to such a foutain of youth lies in making
our DNA more durable by introducing error correction mechanisms into
our genome.  The catch is that it is a far more difficult to run
the genetic clock backwards than it is to stop it. 

- Larry French




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