Ethicist Argues For Anti Aging and Embryonic Stem Cell Use

Posted on October 21, 2008 | by

Art Caplan is the Director for the center of Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania. Last summer, Caplan delivered a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution about living longer and enhancing our bodies through the use of advanced medical technology.

Caplan argues against people he calls “new puritans” who present moral objections against the medical technology which enables us to live longer and look better. In reference to cosmetic enhancement, he remarks, “not everybody is reading these scientific advancements with joy.” One person in his audience had spoken of a family member having a face lift, and a younger woman responded with criticism saying, “that’s terrible. It’s unbelievable that you would do that, you should simply accept the changes [of aging] as they come – it’s basically unethical.”

That is the “puritanical” attitude Caplan rejects. Various arguments come from the right wing and the left, with objections to medical technology that are just not convincing, as he would argue.

His argument in favor of embryonic stem cell research is this: we’ve already doubled our lifespan since ancient times. There is no “natural order of things” when it comes to how long we should exist or how good we should look during that time. Stem cell technology need not come from new sources, but embryos that we already use for other purposes.

What we use to repair disease, we can also use to enhance ourselves. There might be whole body rejuvenation, including the mind, with the help of this technology. Skin, organs, hair and everything in between could be enhanced with regenerative cells. Similar things have successfully been done to small organisms. If we fund it now and conquer these frivolous (and perhaps not so frivolous) arguments now, real anti-aging can become a reality.

If you are interested in hearing more about Caplan’s take on anti-aging or you’ve pondered the moral implications of cosmetic surgical enhancement, you should listen to the lecture at Minnesota Public Radio.