From the October 02, 2005 New York Times, a clear eye toward the
implications of an aging society from a pundit (who usually irritates me
with his right-wing proclivities disguised as moderation). - DC
Brooks : Longer Lives Reveal the Ties That Bind Us.
Let me tell you how
we're going to die. Twenty percent
of us, according to a Rand Corporation
going to get cancer or another rapidly
condition and we'll be dead within a year
the disease. Another twenty percent of us
are going to
suffer from some cardiac or respiratory
suffer years of worsening symptoms, a few
life-threatening episodes, and then
But 40 percent of us will suffer from some
dementia (most frequently Alzheimer's
disease or a
disabling stroke). Our gradual, unrelenting
toward death will take 8 or 10 or even 20
during which we will cease to become the
were. We will linger on, in some new state,
on the care of others.
As the population ages, more people will
live in this
final category. Between now and 2050, the
of the population above age 85 is expected
quadruple, and the number of people with
disease is expected to quadruple, too.
The President's Council on Bioethics, under
who stepped down yesterday as chairman, has
trying to grapple with what this means. The
considers the practical issues. We don't
people to take care of the millions on the
toward death. Fewer people go into nursing.
are smaller and divided.
But the biggest issues the Kass report
takes up are
moral and cultural. We live in an
society. We think of ourselves as
creatures, making up our own minds and
That was fine in an earlier age, when kids
off at age 16 to make their way in the
world, and when
people died at age 65 after a short
illness. But as
the Kass report notes, ''The defining
of our time seems to be that we are both
longer and older longer.''
Parents have to spend a lot more time
children for the new economy and children
spend a lot more time caring for their
they are old.
In other words, technology, which was
supposed to be
liberating, actually creates more
dependence. We spend
more of our lives while young and old
others, and we spend more time in between
those who depend upon us.
Will our moral philosophy catch up to this
When George Bush delivered a speech on the
society, Peter Augustine Lawler, who is a
the bioethics council, wrote an essay in
Atlantis called ''The Caregiving Society,''
the president for offering an overly
social vision. ''The ownership society only
sense if it prepares us to be care-givers
care-receivers,'' he wrote, ''and if it
encourage us to see ourselves as
Lawler argued that the ethic of ''mutual
should limit the idea of self-ownership.''
the French philosopher Chantal Delsol, who
that the ''amount of vigilance, care,
patience that must be given any person, if
he is not
to be driven insane or to despair, is
The council report is very much in this
vein. It is a
rebuke to the economic individualism of the
to the moral individualism of the left.
emphasis on mutual obligation, I sometimes
was reading a report from the old German
The report argues strongly against living
advanced directives, against individuals'
control their own treatments and deaths. It
ethical and more effective, the council
give a loved one the power of attorney to
decisions for you, and so acknowledge your
The report questions the foundation of
that our worth is determined by what we say
No, the report says. Our worth is in our
our relationships. As Kass put it the other
much diminished mother I hugged on the day
death was the same woman I'd been hugging
The report also shows how far social
moved in the past 30 years. A generation
ago, all the
emphasis was on rebelling against
liberating the individual. Now the emphasis
nurturing bonds so sacred they are beyond
the realm of
choice. Now the individual is less likely
regarded as the fundamental unit of
it's the family.
In a mobile, high-tech age, the Kass report
declaration of dependence.