A Cross-Cultural Examination of the Prolongation of Life Using Western and Ayurvedic Principles

February 13, 2013

gapusan

Since the beginning of time, people have tried to grasp the concept of immortality. As the world progresses, the human race is slowly uncovering the secrets to delay death and prolong life. In the early 1900’s, the world held 1.65 billion people. The average life expectancy in the United States was 47 years of age for both men and women. A count in 2008 unveiled that the world’s population is now 6.64 billion. In the past century there has been a 60% increase in the average life expectancy; today, the average person is likely to live until their 78.49th year. From extensive research we now have the advanced knowledge of hygiene and nutrition. While trying to conjure the remedy to death, it is essential to consider how the denunciation of a limited amount of time may alter perceptions of life.

The Unites States is home to a multitude of cultures, the most predominant one being Western. Other cultures and faiths should not be disregarded since they exist and hold valid insight pertaining to the issue of prolonged life. In a world and in a country that contains various cultures, contrasting values should be considered along with the repercussions of prolonging life studies and anti-aging regimens. I feel that religion ought to play a role in my conclusion since it can be the primary source of people’s values. Behavioral and environmental changes should be predicted in order to reach a conclusion as to how various aspects of prolonged life should be dealt with. This paper will explore Western perspectives and Ayurveda, a set of medical ethics under Hinduism, in order to determine the direction of prolonged life studies and whether or not they are a wise investment of time. In order to reach this conclusion there are three essential questions that must be answered. Is aging a normal process or a disease? Is there a difference between a life prolonging practice and life prolonging technology? Is the goal to lengthen life an enhancement or treatment for a medical condition to the human race? These questions will be a source of clarity when contemplating the extension of life. I believe that the advancement of society is unstoppable force, but the way in which we progress can be shaped. I will later elaborate on some beliefs of Ayurveda such as the sacredness of all stages of life and the reverence of the holistic human body. In considering these views, only prolonging life practices should be pursued. Aging is a reoccurring phenomenon in all humans across the world; any anti-aging technology/procedure/method is an enhancement.

Background Information

Before discussing the ethical issues and controversies over the prolongation of life it is necessary to understand the different approaches to prolonging life, as well as varying perspectives of the ordeal. I will discuss caloric restriction and the mutation of genes within the body, since these inventions leave different effects on the human body; they will assist in shaping my conclusion for the path to prolong life. These have been successfully tested on animals, but scientists are working to apply these same processes to humans. Caloric restriction is a personalized method. It is a decrease in calorie intake without malnutrition. The mutation of genes within the body reprograms the metabolic system of the body. I will use these life prolonging agents to support my argument that only practices should be pursued.

The world holds a numerous amount of belief systems; while none is identical, each proposes valid insights. The awareness of our cultural identity and how it forms our world view, the knowledge we have of other cultures and our ability to successfully engage with other cultures is a feature called cultural competence. The acquisition of cultural competence promotes the interweaving of contrasting philosophies. Religion is incorporated into many people’s lives. It may be an aspect of life that a person was raised in, and therefore their values and morals are shaped around their religion. In many cases, religion is engrained into one’s personality. People may feel strongly connected to their faith: protecting it, living by it, following its laws. It can teach people how to deal with situations, give them an outlook on the world, and show them how to perceive ideas put in front of them. The incorporation of religion in determining my conclusion is relevant to the issues because it may govern or influence many people’s lives and interests, including scientific interventions. Using only one ideology to solve an ethical dilemma brands it superior and undermines unused philosophies. I decided to incorporate religion while simply assessing this ethical issue to compare two masses of people involved and to come to a more inclusive decision.

I have chosen to use Western principles as one of the two lenses for this paper because I have grown up in a Western society, the United States. I will be using the modern version of the Hippocratic Oath as a guideline for my analysis along with the perspectives of those who have already done work in this area. Ayurveda will also be a contributing ideology in this cross cultural examination of the prolongation of life. I have decided upon using this set of medical ethics, which falls under the Hindu religion, because of its unique outlook on life and reincarnation. It emphasizes the sacredness of life and the importance of going through the cycle of karma (what one will gain in this life), and dharma (virtue, righteousness, and fulfilling one’s duties: the way a person’s life is meant to be). This belief system also stresses the interconnectedness of the body, mind, and soul along with the interconnectedness of all beings. These are the main aspects of Ayurveda that I will be focusing on to reach my conclusion.

The Definition of Aging: Disease or Natural Occurrence

The definition of aging as a disease or as a natural occurrence is vague, but plays a valuable role in the classification of prolonging life methods as either treatment or enhancement. Not only that, the definition also affects how the research and products of this research are treated. For example, the research for the prolongation of life would intensify if aging is classified as a disease. The technologies, methods and practices to extend life will be assessed as drugs or medical devices. This entails that proof of safety and efficiency would be required before it is marketed. If aging is considered natural, then life-prolonging products will be assessed like cosmetic medicine (i.e. not medically necessary). These innovations would not be covered by health insurers nor would they be assessed by the FDA or any other outside organization. Without regulations it would be easier for companies to commit fraud which leads to a loss of incentive for most manufacturers to generate safe, effective products. Aging being classified as normal would also increase hesitancy in donors and funders to invest in this field since it would not be a pressing issue. However, the desire to live longer may be offset by the collective knowledge of aging; even though aging could be considered normal it may not be desirable.

When do people start aging toward death? From the moment we are born, we begin to age. I must specify what stage of aging I am discussing to eliminate confusion. Aging to adulthood is one type of aging and not discussed in this paper. I will be focusing on the aging that occurs after one reaches their adult body. Biologically, this is when the body no longer builds upon itself but deteriorates to a less fit state of the body as a whole which cannot be restored. The brain’s structure of neurons, more formally referred to as the neurochemical systems that allow these to communicate, starts to break. This impacts one’s cognition and their ability to process and retain information: how to learn new things (Augmented Discounting: Interaction between Ageing and Time-Preference Behaviour). In the 1990’s Western biogerontologists defined the process of aging, instead of the age related diseases, as the target for biomedical intervention; biological aging is problematic. According to biogerontologists aging is “the normal biological processes that are collectively the single greatest risk factor for the pathologies of old age” (“Anti-Aging Medicine,” and the Challenges of Human Enhancement).  This definition is up for interpretation because it is broad and vague. The word “normal” in this sentence has various meanings and can be interpreted differently by each reader. In general normal is a relative term. People may consider pathologies to be normal and not a risk factor at all.

I have gathered a Western belief of aging from the paper “Anti-Aging Medicine” and the Challenges of Human Enhancement written by Eric T. Juengst, Robert H. Binstock, Maxwell Mehlman, Stephen G. Post and Peter Whitehouse. In this paper, it is stated that aging connotes deterioration, pathology, and death which aligns with the Modern Hippocratic Oath; this covenant, a popular set of guidelines for many Western physicians, mainly focusses on the physical aspects of ailment. Western principles may view aging as such because it does not address the emotional state of a person as strongly. It may also be because there is no higher power that governs this stage in life. It is simply the body deteriorating without any meaning or significance other than the end of a life. The search for a cure stems from this perspective (an idea initially presented by Hayflick).

Since Western medicine bases its model for understanding health and disease on the physical body and its principles consider aging as a disease, they have approached it as such. Anti-aging has become such a pressing topic in science that the federal government has created twenty-seven institutes in order to conduct research on aging and wellbeing of older people. The leading institute is the National Institute of Aging. The institute’s mission is to:

“support and conduct genetic, biological, clinical, behavioral, social and economic research on aging, foster the development of research and clinician scientists in aging, provide research resources, disseminate information about aging and advances in research to public health care, professionals, and the scientific community, among a variety of audiences. “ (NIA website)

Another reason Western principles may view aging as a disease is because of the baby boomer generation. This generation has lived longer and aged more than any other group of people in the past which has revealed more effects of aging. These newfound effects have been viewed as detrimental to humans. I believe aging and the age onset effects of aging should be viewed as separate. The effects of aging are not universal, but individual. Yet not all western scientists think this way. Felipe Sierra, a gerontologist at the Institute of Aging, argues that these researches can protect against age onset diseases and will improve quality of life. In an article “Live Longer and Prosper” it is explicitly said that aging is not a disease.

Ayurveda translates to the knowledge of life. It is a belief system that emphasizes karma and dharma. I have made my conclusions for the definition of aging according to Ayurveda from these principles. Aging and death are a part of the cycle of karma; a higher power controls, punishes, and rewards people, and also may govern the stage of aging. In Ayurveda, it is believed that the world is created in a balance and that peoples’ lives are meant to serve a purpose therefore aging is a part of order. Aging may potentially bring one to dharma, the reward out of the cycle of reincarnation and eternal afterlife once one fully comprehends how everything is one. This is an understanding people work towards for in many lives. Prolonging aging would delay someone’s dharma, but could also allow for more opportunities to promote or redeem oneself. Because of the belief in karma, Ayurveda may classify aging as a natural process and as a part of human nature. It is an attribute embedded to the lives of human beings.  While I do acknowledge a standpoint Western principles present on the definition of aging, this is a function that every human being undergoes. One may refute that the process of aging is something every human undergoes, which is legitimate. To that, I would respond with the question: Are the person who die of natural causes at an early age not diseased and that is how humans are meant to carry out their life? Since people live longer through aging, I feel that it would be illogical to say this process takes away from one’s life. As Ayurveda points out, aging is part of an authentic human life, therefore I believe we should view aging as a natural process.

Method versus Technology

Currently there are many studies being conducted to prolong life. These studies go beyond self-care and are focusing on ensuring a longer life from very early on. There are two approaches to prolong life that I will discuss in this paper. Caloric Restriction is a dietary tactic which has proven to be effective in mice. Simultaneous studies include the mutation of Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), a species of roundworm. Scientists have been experimenting with the genes of these worms to discover the ones that specifically impact the aging process so that they can influence the aging process at the genetic level in humans. Note that these are experimentations on animals being analyzed, and have not been tested on humans. One is a practice that becomes embedded into one’s daily routine and the other is a procedure that goes into the body and alters the natural course of cells’ lives.

A Practice: Caloric Restriction

Caloric restriction is a practice. There is a specific quantity of calorie for each person or the baseline food intake. This is taken from the body’s mass and age of the patient. Then, on average, a 30% decrease in calories is prescribed. Caloric restriction alone works by regulating specific metabolic pathways. This allows for cells to endure less harm from the metabolic process. This method prolongs life 30%-40% (if completed without malnutrition) which is an estimated 20-30 human years.  This technique was discovered and devised by scientist McKay who carried out an experiment on a group of mice. In another experiment similar to this, rhesus monkeys were evaluated under caloric restriction. In this study, the experimental group resulted in 13% of deaths due to age-related causes whereas the control group’s results (who were able to eat an uncontrolled amount) showed 37%.  Caloric restriction along with insulin is also being studied. Insulin is a chemical which helps digest glucose. It would encourage a body undergoing caloric restriction to mimic the chemical reactions that occur when food consumption is reduced. It is the insurance to a prolonged life. If research succeeds in creating a safe caloric restriction method applicable to humans, it would be considered a practice according to the FDA. Meaning it would not be evaluated using the regulations instated for drugs and medical devices and there would not be many guidelines on the advertisement.  Insulin, mostly predicted to be available in caplets, would be marked as a dietary supplement. Again, there would be little focus to ensure these caplets’ efficiency and safety.

Since this is a Western innovation, I will cross culturally examine caloric restriction through Ayurveda. Nutrition is a major theme of Ayurveda; it is the center of many other beliefs within this set of medical ethics. Not only does the caloric content of the food play a role in its status but also the impact it may have on the body. The health of digestive system in based on one’s food intake along with his or her breath and movement of the body. One’s diet affects his or her emotions and stimulates the prevention of diseases; physical health and mood are very closely related. Eating unhealthy foods disrespects the body and weakens it. This exemplifies the belief in the holistic integrated functions of the body. Meanwhile, healthy goods promote the three doshas (energies believed to be present in the body administrating physiological activity) for a longer life, intelligence, order, and balance. These doshas are one’s own constitution or the way their body is meant to exist. The constitution of food explains how the body may respond to certain foods and their energies. For example a person with high movement may drink peppermint tea in order to maintain the liveliness of that body. Dissimilarly, a person who tends to be more lethargic might drink ginger tea to warm her or her body and keep the body from stiffening. Negative emotions (jealously, greed, anger, etc.) may originate if the doshas become out of balance. These are examples of responding to the physiological make-up of an individual body. The use of insulin to further the impacts of caloric restriction adjusts the way in which the body functions; this violates an extreme importance in Ayurveda. Abiding by both the laws of Ayurveda and caloric restriction would be a responsibility for the individual. Since caloric restriction alone is proven effective and does not interfere with the interconnectedness of the body, mind, and soul, and maintains the holistic body, it is an acceptable method of anti-aging as long as it is not aided by insulin intake or supplements. Caloric restriction does not require the initial slice of a blade or violation of the body in order to obtain the desired results. I feel that this decision also complies with the Hippocratic Oath since this practice has little room for error and harm.

 A Procedure/Technology: The Mutation of Gerontongenes

Human aging is thought to be affected by 25% genetics and 75% environment. The term gerontongenes refers to any genetic elements that are involved in the regulation of aging and lifespan. The gerontongenes are those which are involved in the process of homeostasis and longevity assurance. It is a cluster of genes, not an explicit one. Western biogerontologists may view gerontongenes as self-destructive. This explanation entails that their function, aging, is caustic and self-harming.  In an experiment with Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) multiple genes were examined and mutated. Scientists altered the age related biochemical reactions and functions of these genes so that cells would deteriorate slower. Since these worms are temperature sensitive, they were put into various temperature controlled environments to record any changes in life span. The temperature (along with the mutation of gerontongenes) affected the activity and size of these worms; a slightly higher temperature (15C to 20C) not only increased their size and level of activity within the worms, but also doubled their lifespan. Never before has there been improvement of this magnitude in lifespan. This method to increase life would be difficult to apply to human because of the many threats to life it possesses. Genes are very temperamental and complex. Each body will respond to genetic coding differently therefore it is challenging to predict the outcome. This is because of the amount of genes that are potentially involved; therefore more studies and experimentation must be conducted

Again, because this is a procedure developed by Western biogerontologists, I will cross culturally examine it through Ayurveda. Ayurveda includes texts that highlight the sanctity of the body as well as techniques to better the integrated holistic function of the nervous system. This method involves going into the body and alters the way it operates. A major contrast in beliefs between Western principles and Ayurveda is how the soul is viewed. Ayurveda believes that people, animals, etc., are not their bodies but their souls. The body is an illusion and one’s true self is connected to the universe. Reincarnation occurs because these souls do not understand that they are not their body; this idea originates from the struggle spirits have finding their true nature. Another major focus is one’s karma and dharma. Karma is what a person will gain in his or her present life and hold the spirit accountable for this life. “This life” or “present life” refers to the life God has allotted to a spirit which encases the idea of time. A higher being has determined how much time one has to gain in their allotment. Since it is believed that the true self is connected to the universe, including all other living creatures and God, altering the natural lifespan of a certain human being may bring unbalance. Mutating genes may be perceived as violating both of these ideas of the human body. I do not believe that the mutation of genes coincides with Ayurveda.

Technology versus Non-Technology

Prohibiting anti-aging methods is incompatible with a perspective within the Western beliefs and would be favoring Ayurveda. However, a limit must be established. There is a difference in impact between technology and non-technology, such as practices and methods. A practice is on the individual’s shoulders’; it becomes engrained in one’s life, for instance, diet. A practice is something a person becomes familiar with: a custom almost that does not alienate one from his or her life. Practices do not violate the internal body but maneuver the body’s systems in a new way. These structures are channeled to work in a more specific, calculated way and are not fixed to do anything out of its ability. This is utilizing the body to its fullest rather than eliminating an entire function and building from the ground up. Caloric restriction moderates the damage done by the digestive system, helping it not to self-destruct. Without introducing a new method of digesting to the body, the current one is directed to perform more efficiently.

A device takes all responsibility for its changes. The alteration(s) of a device are initiated by a human but a human cannot change how a device works. For example, one a human has undergone the mutation of gerontongenes, he or she, alone, cannot alter the changes made to him or her. Since devices are produced to be highly reliable they are usually more efficient. An effective prolonging life technology or procedure would lead to a greater chance that the repercussions of an extended life may occur: poverty, allocation of resources, the outlook on time, education systems, and relationships. These alleged consequences will be mentioned and elaborated upon later in this paper. In the case that technology may fail, the responsibility and accountability goes to the inventors of the unsuccessful product. Again, since the consumer or customer cannot change the way a device works, the failure is due to the lack of thoroughness of the inventors.  This would potentially start an outbreak of negative feedback and protests to science from the community. In this event, the trust relationship between society and scientists is weakened.

Other considerations would be the cost of production of devices and the execution of procedures. After concluding the final cost, who would have access to these innovations? The world has a variety of ability within its communities; something to think about would be in how many areas is this technology accessible? Would a new super class of longer living people evolve and how would they utilize their extra time on earth? Technology very rarely comes freely since a drive to the production of technology is a profit. Some people must save their money for absolutely necessary supplies (food, clothing, shelter) and do not have to ability to expend on that which adds to life; they must focus on how to sustain life. Henceforth those who can afford to attain technology are given a higher ability and set them apart. These outcomes are purely possibilities that may not even be plausible. The chance that this may happen is unknown. These are implications of the prolongation of life that can be elaborated on, but are not the purpose of my paper. I will not be exploring these ideas further.

The implementation of a practice, specifically caloric restriction, uses resources more wisely and can be applied to a wider demographic. The mutation of genes and all other procedure/technology research should be eliminated since these only apply to a certain socioeconomic class. With other more pressing death threats and present issues of the world, aging is not a priority. The money and resources the scientific community has should not be used to address a less severe cause such as aging. We should strive to solve our world today instead of focusing on the future. It is impossible to have an optimistic future if the current problems are not addressed.

Prolonged Life: Enhancement or Treatment?

Earlier, I concluded that aging is a natural process meaning it is not an irregular but an integrated bodily function. Henceforth I believed that anti-aging technologies are an enhancement. Defining anti-aging as an enhancement or treatment is significant for how life prolonging research and products will be treated. While there are benefits to prolonging life, I consider anti-aging technologies an unwise investment of time. An extended life is prophesized to change the way life is perceived, the manner in which people are treated and the relationships between them, and the importance of death (Augmented Discounting: Interaction between Ageing and Time-Preference Behaviour).  This changes human kind entirely and loses some of its characteristics that help the world function. While prolonging life can be beneficial to the individual at first, the repercussions would escalade out of control after only a few decades. The population would rise resulting in an even greater issue of the allocation of resources (food, housing, amenities, etc. and an uneven distribution), which would lead to an increased poverty rate. According to Ayurveda the world was created in a balance and that balance was made so that everything works in harmony. I believe the world has already adopted this belief in a sense through the “cause and effect” clause, but that we should take a step further and recognize the magnitude of this truth. Furthermore, humans have a set lifespan that is long enough for a person to enjoy the world, and for others to enjoy a person for while they are present. This time is just enough for a specific person’s life to run its course. As karma demonstrates, one will

The enhancement debate (a debate about how far should individuals advance) strives to answer this main question: what authenticity consists of and how can we best achieve it. “If I am not [true to myself], I miss the point of my life, I miss what being human is for me” (The Ethics of Authenticity). In the enhancement debate, numerous perspectives share the idea of authenticity, but different understandings of them. The core of the strife originates from the lack of consensus of how to flourish and how to reach fulfillment. The moral idea of authenticity, “What is being human?” is diverse; the concept presents dissimilar points between people. A concern of enhancements is how will the standard human change with the development of enhancements and after a certain number of advances, can a human actually be called so.  Many people are undecided because of their mixed beliefs. The 21st century has found itself with modern and traditional religions, and belief systems. It is not uncommon to be brought up in two different religions; to be bicultural. In this debate we must remain neutral when discussing what a good life is. However this is an impossible task, because there are always limitations. Not everyone will ever completely agree with each other on what a good life is because of difference in opinions and experiences. But each perspective should be respected. All perspectives are equally legitimate; therefore the goal of the enhancement debate should not be to reach a consensus but to understand all the perspectives in order to maneuver through ethical decisions. This shows openness and thoughtfulness.

The proponents of enhancements may argue that the prospective technologies to prolong life may facilitate our authentic efforts at self-discovery and self-creation; we may overcome the buffers to seeing the human race as genuinely as possible. I will now speak from the perspective of the proponents. Prolonging life would help bring out what is at our core. People have the right to make decisions about how their life is perceived because their values originate from their own life experiences. This would allow for a better quality of life because of the prediction of a decrease rate in age related diseases. This way, people have more control in determining what a good life is and can craft the path their life will take. There would be more opportunity to shape one’s own life to complete and accomplish more in a longer life. The realization of dreams could present a more fulfilled human race; we would be happier. Humans may also become well versed in a variety of areas. One of the philosophies of life (presented by Daniel Roscoe) may be called an “s” life or the “typical process of life.” When a human is born they start “at the bottom.” He or she has no knowledge or any idea of where they wish to direct their life. The buildup to the top of the curve of the “s” is the child to young adult stages of life when one becomes educated, shapes a path for his or her life, and builds a career. Once one has mastered their life (professions, responsibilities, etc.), he or she has reached the top curve of the “s”. But of course, there is a population who never reach the top of the “s” life because of complications and restrictions of the body and/or life situations. Through an extended life, a “double s” life may be led. A “double s” life allows a person to live the stages of life twice or restart the process. It would allow for more exploration in other interests once they have mastered their current occupation and hobbies or if one decides to stray from their intended path. Proponents would argue that we should take advantage of the creativity of the human race to mend and transform ourselves and the world. It is our duty to find the courage to become creative in our efforts to ameliorate the human suffering of disappointment in the events of life and unrealized goals.

Western principles can support the use of enhancements by referring to the Hippocratic Oath (Modern Version) which has points that are relevant to the topic of prolonged life. I have found two lines in the text, specifically, that may encourage the use of prolonged life technology. Aging can be defined as a sickness and medical issue by Western doctors who follow the Hippocratic Oath. Doctors must do all they can to cure aging under the sworn line “for the benefit of the sick, all measures are required”. Not only is it possible to view curing aging an obligation for Western doctors under this oath but we can view so is the prevention as an obligation, too, for they have promised to “prevent disease whenever [they] can, for prevention is preferable to a cure.” This entails that it is preferable to prevent health problem- potentially including those which are age-related. Another major incentive for the productivity of life extending enhancements is a profit. A lot of money can be poured into this genre of biogerontology. The commercialization of these technologies would persuade patients that this is beneficial to them rather than informing them of everything that should be considered. The encouragement of the prolongation of life seems to be more in harmony with Western principles than with Ayurveda.

We could expect to hear the critics of enhancements defend a point which states that through the use of enhancements, our authenticity is threatened. It also argues that this is self-alienation for the human race since with the development of new technologies the standard of human will increase and move further away from our natural state. By utilizing enhancers, our normalcy is skewed when it is our responsibility to maintain it within our health. It separates the human race from what is most our own (natural functions, physical body, and emotions); this perspective is the basis of disease in Ayurveda. Paragyaparadh signifies a loss of identity. Karma is also an important concept to contemplate, which expresses the vitality of allowing life to happen as it occurs. It is not our place to meddle with the time set aside for our lives. As human beings, we must learn how to ration the time we are given. Prioritizing is an essential skill; learning how to differentiate between what is extremely important and what is unimportant. This skill assists humans in being more efficient and to advance and improve within fields. Otherwise people would be scattered and would not develop any true passions. Along with the emotion of passion, suffering is an essential characteristic of humans, according to Ayurveda. This includes physical deterioration, and emotional suffering, specifically loss. Through these experiences people often times must reteach themselves how to do or remember certain things; a change in routine. People must maintain fluidity in order to come to terms with events they do not enjoy in their lives. They must learn to modify beliefs and sometimes change them. This leads to a better tolerance of others and of situations we cannot control. Practicing how to minimize the difference between the actual state of mind and one’s ideal state of mind should be a prominent aspect of human beings. In the case of suffering, some situations are deceived or the person/people may be in denial. Compromising knowledge of one’s own situation is corrupt; it would be better to suffer to experience authenticity.

Conclusion

Another issue to consider is philointervention. The scientists researching the prolongation life are not at the age in which their experiments enhance. Therefore the scientists will never completely understand the complications or joys in old age (between ages 70-79, according to biogerontologists). Are the studies toward the prolongation of life poorly motivated? Since none of these scientists have ever lived through this stage of life how can they really gage old age? It can be inferred that these studies derive from fear of old age and death.

Logistically, the world operates on balance. An increased life span would give rise to the population (because of a diminution in death risks) and birth rates (since there is more time for people to have children naturally and artificially). There is a conjectured five year delay in mortality across the world in the years 2030-2050. One more year lived by every person 65 years or older in this country alone, would lead to around 53 million cumulative person-years-of-life. This means 53 million years’ worth of living supplies must be found in order to sustain these people. The earth already faces challenges of overpopulation and resources; it is unwise to add a threat to the world even though it may serve an individual well. Overall there is a chance that the human race and the earth will suffer. But this is uncertain since it has not taken place yet. Nonetheless, it is a risk we should be aware of.

While taking valuable insight from Ayurveda and respecting Western principles I believe that research in anti-aging techniques and methods should continue, leaving the technology aspect out of any further studies and focusing on caloric restriction. As for the definition of aging, I feel that it may be referred to as a normal process and a disease. The two viewpoints have different understandings of aging and both should be respected, like all other viewpoints on different aspects. Each of the ideologies presents valid claims for these standpoints. Aging is viewed as a process that can be enhanced and is partly ethical to study. This decision does not disrespect Ayurveda or Western Principles since it is only a thought (aging as a disease) that does not attack the other ideology. I believe two definitions may coexist since caloric restriction treats aging as both a disease to treat and as a natural process which can be enhanced. Through my research, however, personally I consider aging as a natural process.

Technologies are an enhancement and advancement. Because of a limited supply of resources, complicated and costly technologies should not be pursued, but people should be able to study and have access to the knowledge of prolonging life methods. Devices in general are proven more effective than practices. Anti- aging devices specifically lead to the great demand of resources, something we cannot even provide for the people today with this population. Therefore it is unintelligent to include life prolonging technologies in the world at this point in time. The methods are not always 100% effective. From that number we may predict that practices will have only a slight influx of change will take place; less of a risk is taken. This is better for the community since it addresses a current issue and does not put more stress on it.

Prolonging life would upset the balance of the earth and veer off the greater good and determined path of the world. The reason the present global problems should be solved first is because they currently affect more people, the world, and have chain effects. All aspects of a global issue are offset by each other. I feel that in order to successfully advance, the world must solve all it needs presently. Leaving unsolved issues while improving other aspects of the world would create a drastic contrast in the type of people living in the world and/or create forgotten causes never to be solved. All features of an issue can completely collapse if it is ignored completely. We should be working towards fixing the global problems instead of being almost selfish and bettering individuals for only a certain amount of time. Until all other problems are alleviated, it would be impractical and illogical to move ahead and determine the future with prolonged life devices and procedures.

Ayurveda is valuable in this decision in its belief of the sanctity of life and the body. The body is unharmed, and none of the holistic integrated functions is altered or changed, only moderated. It also is respected in its sense of nutrition. There is no overeating in caloric restriction which allows for a healthier life style and avoids health risks such as diabetes and heart’s disease, heart attack and stroke. This is taking care of the body and therefore balances the doshas and encourages positivity.

Western principles are respected in the sense that aging is recognized as something that can be improved upon and is still partly ethical to research. Aging is recognized as a target for biomedical intervention although not the main objective of biomedical engineering. Prolonged life is considered beneficial for an individual and can help his or her life. Caloric restriction is deemed to be effective and also improves the health of the body, which works toward the overall goal of the Hippocratic Oath, to better the patient.  It also allows for character building in individuals which betters temperament and tolerance. This is bettering the patient, mentally. The implementation of caloric restriction and other possible methods of prolonging life may improve the body in more ways than one and also upholds the values and traditions of each ideology. All of the principles of each cannot be sustained and followed, for this is the purpose of collaboration. There must be compensation for smaller values and morals in order to compensate and respect another belief system.   This decision, I believe, evaluates the morals of both Western Principles and Ayurveda and combines them to their fullest in cross culturally examining the issue of prolonged life.

Works Cited

Amundensen, Darrek W. The Physician’s Obligation to Prolong Life: A Medical Duty without Classical Roots. N.p.: n.p., 1978. Print.

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Ashley is a junior at Kent Place School. The Bioethics Project 2012 initially appealed to her because of the topic’s complexity. The multifaceted issues included in bioethics gave her to the opportunity engage her mind in ways she had never considered. From these exercises, Ashley has developed a strong understanding of ethical dilemmas and hopes to utilize this knowledge in her future work.

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