Ethical, Social, and Personal Implications of Extended Human Lifespan Identified by Members of the Public Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • There are a number of ethical, social, and personal implications generated by the potential development and use of technologies that may extend human longevity by intervening in aging. Despite speculations about likely public attitudes toward life extension, to date there have been few attempts to empirically examine the public's perspective of these issues. Using open-ended survey questions via telephone interviews, this study explored the attitudes of 605 members of the Australian public toward the implications of life extension. Participants were asked to briefly describe in their own words what they believed would be the beneficial, as well as negative, implications arising from life extension (if there were any), both for themselves personally and for society as a whole. Participants were also asked to describe any ethical concerns they had about life extension, if they had any at all. All open-ended responses were collated and then underwent a thematic analysis to uncover commonly cited issues regarding personal benefits/negatives, societal benefits/negatives, and ethical concerns. A considerable number of participants envisioned at least some beneficial as well as negative implications for themselves and for society, and many claimed to have at least some ethical concerns. Some novel issues were raised as well as a number of those discussed within the bioethical literature. The results should encourage researchers, bioethicists, and policy makers to engage with members of the public about the goals of research surrounding life extension, the expected outcomes of such research, and the likely implications for individuals and society.

authors

publication date

  • October 2009