How Long Can We Live? (…and How Long Should We Live?)

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Jacob Appel is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Education, and Director of Ethics Education in Psychiatry, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. A bioethicist, physician, lawyer, author and social critic, he is best known for his short stories, his work as a playwright, and his writing in the fields of reproductive ethics, organ donation, neuroethics and euthanasia. Appel’s novel, The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up, won the Dundee International Book Prize in 2012. He has taught medical ethics at New York University, Columbia University, and Brown University’s Alpert Medical School.


How Long Can Humans Live?

Given the remarkable scientific and medical strides in the past few decades, many of us now wonder: “How long can humans live?” Of course, that brings up the difficult issues that society needs to deal with: How long should humans live? In other words, what are the complicated ethical challenges brought about by extending lifespans? Babies born this year have a life expectancy of 80 years, but just half a century ago that number was 72, and a full century ago it was just 50!

How will longevity change society? Should we be considering age-based limits on some activities (i.e., driving, mandatory retirement)? What medical choices should be available to various individuals in different circumstances, and are federal laws required in some areas? These questions have legal, moral, and ethical consequences.



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Enjoyed thoroughly!

A great purview of his field with lots of data points, studies and examples that give rise to the varied theories. I was impressed with the quality of questions and his rapid fire responses to get them all answered. I especially liked his subtle injections of humor!

Like the PC, the Internet and now AI as transformative agents of our society, I am curious to see if genetics will likewise result in a revolution in how we perceive longevity and is so, how we’ll address some of the ethical concerns that were raised in the class!

2 months ago
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