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Letter: The Perils of Longevity

To the Editor:

“They are being downright harmful,” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote in his April 6 commentary. This line leapt out for me, but in a different context from Friedman’s.

The medical profession has worked for years to prolong life — a goal always thought to be honorable. Now that the profession has “succeeded,” we are brought through successive medical catastrophes, dooming us to the perils of longevity — cancer and dementia.

In “doing no harm,” the medical profession has become the well-intentioned enabler, leading us into the harm’s way of artificially extended old age.

Perhaps we need to reconsider our goals and aspirations, allowing death to develop earlier, as it does in much of the unmedicated world. This new goal may be to alleviate pain and suffering, rather than seeking cures for the incurable or escape from inevitable death.

My apology for being so repetitious in my concern. I don’t intend to slight the dedicated work of medical professionals.

Jack Hemenway