Even if Genetic Therapies Cured all Major Diseases, Would that be a Good Development?
†††† †††††† A recent TV commercial depicts a terminally ill Lou Gehrig stepping to the microphone in an empty Yankee Stadium to practice the famous speech in which he stated, in words that echoed then, and even now:† ďI consider myself Öthe luckiest manÖ.on the face of the earth.Ē†††
Aside from desecrating one of the greatest moments in American cultural history, that commercial made me wonder:† What would happen to that moment in the medical utopia weíre continually promised, in which diseases and untimely deaths will be history.
What would happen, letís say 50 years from now, if an imaginary Lou Gehrig stepped to the microphone and said, ďI guess you heard I was feeling a little under the weather.† Well, Iím going to receive a few stem cells, get a little rest and Iíll be just fine.Ē††
Would that be a better outcome than what happened to the real Gehrig?†
First, would Gehrigís life have been significantly better if he had lived to old age and set an endurance record that Cal Ripken, Jr. would still be chasing?† Thereís† always more to do, but, at 35, hadnít Gehrig lived longer than many people all over the world and already accomplished a lot?†† In a world full of medically-protected 150 year olds, would there be room or resources for Gehrig 2050† to have children or grandchildren?† After beating ALS, would he have averted the suffering that typically attends old age, spending his last decades bored and lonely and/or in a nursing home?† Will the futuristic Gehrig† just be euthanized when his life isnít enjoyable or interesting?† Who will decide?
More importantly, what about Gehrigís impact on the rest of humanity?†† Doesnít his speech, and the tragic circumstances under which it was delivered, do more to inspire people than any home run he ever hit?† Maybe Iím misinterpreting the moment, but I thought he was trying to say† that ďThe length of a personís life should not be our focus.† Instead, itís the amount of love we give and receive and the appreciation we have for the days we are given that matters.† Iíve loved and been loved and Iíve had many great days.†† Knowing that these beautiful days will soon be over makes the memory of them, and this day, joyful beyond belief.†† I hope you will live all your days with a profound appreciation for life.Ē††
†What a vacuous message that would be in a world where people could live for centuries.††
In todayís world, itís considered naÔve to even suggest either that† adversity builds character.† But is it at least possible that the real and present threats of adversity and demise engender the gratefulness for each day that makes life worth living?††† Iím not the first to think so.† In Psalms, Moses said, to God, "Teach us to number our days so we may gain a heart of wisdom."† This message has resonated through the years because, as Norman Mailer wrote, in The Armies of the Night, "If death disappeared, there would be no life.Ē