The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

3035.0: Monday, November 17, 2003 - Board 8

Abstract #55497

Public Health: Towards a disease-free life without end?

Evelyne Shuster, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Addiction program, University of Pennsylvania, VA Medical Center, University and Woodland Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19104, 215 823-4206,

Public health has increased the average life expectancy by about 7 hours every day for the past 100 years in the United States. But we expect more from public health. And more is both a healthier and longer life. How much longer and how much healthier do we want our lives to be” is the question? The UFO religious cult, the Raelians, wants eternal life on earth and envisions a time when they are able to create an adult clone within hours and download the contents of the brain from an old to a new adult clone, a process which could be repeated indefinitely. We can easily dismiss the Raelians’ pronouncements as a cross between the bizarre and the fantastic. Yet, humans have always looked for ways to become masters of their health as they have tried to seize control of their destinies. French rationalist philosopher, Rene Descartes, thought he could “live forever” “free of an infinitude of maladies both of body and mind, and even also possibly of the infirmities of age.” What is remarkable is that Descartes’ project to live a much longer and healthier life has survived to these days, finding its application in science, medicine and public health. Should public health ethics support an agenda that calls for “absolute remedies” and a radical increase in human life expectancy? When does pubic health cease to be public health to become a religious cult? And when does the increase in quantity of life interfere with quality of life?

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Ethics, Zidovudine

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Ethics Forum Poster Session

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA